Joan Diaz, director of Community Services for St. Charles Parish, said while November is a time to give thanks for our many personal blessings, it is also important to remember those in our community who are struggling during this time of economic instability.
“For many residents of St. Charles Parish, the holidays are difficult because of personal hardships encountered due to unemployment, sudden illness or an unexpected personal financial crisis,” she said. “In partnership with local agencies and businesses throughout our community, the St. Charles Parish Department of Community Services continues to respond to the needs of our most vulnerable citizens through our annual Thanksgiving Basket Program.”
Diaz said community services employees and volunteers assemble roughly 300 Thanksgiving Day food baskets a year for families in need. The holiday outreach is an extension of what the agency does on a year around basis.
“We serve over 1,000 families a year,” Diaz said. “That includes elderly people, single parents, households, recently unemployed people and people who have experienced a medical crisis.”
Diaz said her office gives out approximately 50 bags of food a month to needy residents, and with COVID that number is growing.
“We’re seeing a lot of new faces because people are dealing with sudden unemployment,” she said. “The St. Charles Parish Department of Community Services serves as a safety net for struggling families in the parish.”
In addition to supplying food, the office also provides utility assistance, home repair programs, emergency assistance programs and other offerings.
“We have a connection in the community year around,” Diaz said, adding the Thanksgiving baskets are given out to randomly drawn recipients from a pool of the residents helped by the agency all year. “We also coordinate with all of the other food banks in the area so we don’t duplicate efforts.”
Diaz said baskets will be assembled up until the day before Thanksgiving, and any food donated after that will be put in the food bank for future uses.
“As donations continue to roll in we’ll make baskets until we can’t make them anymore,” she said.
And while the agency is supported from federal and local funding sources, Diaz said it is the generosity of local industry, businesses and residents that make things like the holiday baskets possible.
“It’s almost like the loaves and the fishes in the Bible,” she said. “As many people who come to us, we always seem to meet their needs because of the generosity of the community.”
Thanksgiving basket items needed include stuffing mix, corn bread mix, candied yams, macaroni and cheese, 2 pound bags of rice, dirty rice mix, turkey gravy, boxed potatoes, peas, cranberries, green beans, dinner rolls, cake mix, icing, marshmallows, pecans, 2 liters of soft drinks and turkey or a gift card.
To donate food, money or gift cards to the Thanksgiving basket initiative, contact the office at 985-764-7944 or send your contribution to P.O. Box 169, New Sarpy, LA 70078. Donations can also be dropped off at 14564 River Road in New Sarpy.