Local teens help raise 600 toys for St. Rose Toys for Tots

More than 400 area children got Christmas gifts

As more than 400 children gathered in the American Legion hall in St. Rose for the local Toys for Tots giveaway Monday, three teens stood out as the gifts who keep on giving.

Amber Dillenkoffer, 13, of Destrehan raised 134 toys for the event. Stephanie L’Herisse, 14, and her sister, Kristen, 13, both of St. Rose, collectively raised an estimated 217.

Those toys brought Christmas joy to hundreds of children.Stephanie said she enjoys the feeling of helping people less fortunate.

“It’s a good thing and it brings blessings … something really nice and pleasing to the soul,” she said.Her sister, Kristen, agreed.

“You always should give … it’s about joy and giving thanks,” she said.

Stephanie and Kristen’s mother, Devona, said she is proud of her daughters.

“I love what they do,” she said. “I support them 100 percent. They not only do that, but they leave at 4:30 a.m. to feed the homeless and do toiletry packs for them. They distribute on Christmas and Thanksgiving mornings.”Amber also was jubilant over being able to distribute the toys she donated, but her love for gathering them started last year when she saw a toy drive being held with Louisiana’s Miss Heart of Christmas pageant in LaPlace.

People were asked to donate five toys; Amber delivered 124.But this year’s pageant didn’t include a drive so she asked her mother, Sheri, to find her another one.

Sheri found the Toys for Tots Distribution at the St. Rose American Legion Hall.

In November, Amber started collecting toys again. Much to her surprise, she was contacted by last year’s givers who wanted to help again this year, as well as the many new contributors.

“I was thinking about the looks on the kids’ faces when they get to choose the toys,” she said. “I want to give them some kind of Christmas even if it was just a little bit.”Sheri is proud of her daughter.

“She’s concerned about things and she’s really thoughtful, and is glad to be able to help out,” she said. Amber’s generosity may be rooted in participating in a group founded by her aunt, Ashley Johnson of Metairie, called Feed NOLA. Once a month, she’s among around 15 people who go to the New Orleans mission every Saturday  to feed the homeless.

“I learned you can make a difference in somebody’s life … just something as simple as this,” she said. “It just taught me in any way you can help people they appreciate it. Putting in a little time and money can change somebody’s life.”

Toys for Tots coordinator Deborah Oliver said these teens are examples of why her organization holds these events.

“No. 1 it reaches community,” she said. “No. 2 – it reunites hope with family, and No. 3 – We love to serve.”Oliver partnered with the Dr. K Movement for the event that included gifts, photos with Santa, cookies and firemen hats.Some 486 applications were taken for children to receive toys.


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