The St. Charles Parish Toy and Gift Event will be held this year in Luling on Dec. 16 at the Edward A Dufresne Community Center, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
All St. Charles Parish children, ages infant to 16 years, are invited to the event where local children can also mail letters to Santa. Children attending must be accompanied by a parent or guardian and must show proof of residency. Refreshments will be also available for attendees, while supplies last.
Retired Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP) director Jeanne Arabie, who along with a team of volunteers organize the event each year, said putting the annual program on becomes worth every ounce of effort as soon as St. Charles Parish children begin to arrive.
“Seeing all the children walk in, and their faces and eyes light up when they see Santa and toys brings a smile to the volunteers’ faces,” Arabie said.
For the third consecutive year, the event is open to all residents due to significant charitable contributions from Toys for Tots, Valero, the Times-Picayune Doll & Toy Fund, United Way of St. Charles and the Rotary Club of St. Charles Parish.
“We are expecting to give away over 5,000 toys this year,” Arabie said of the upcoming event. “We are hoping to beat the record of last year of 1,700 children.”
The St. Charles Parish and Gift Event dates to the 1970s, originally beginning with a simple list supplied from local area churches of children in need. With the focused help of local volunteers, the event eventually grew in scope and size.
“This event turned into a remarkable day with Santa, where local middle schools and the RSVP helped make a great intergenerational activity at two middle schools,” Arabie said.
The St. Charles Parish Toy and Gift Event has grown into an annual event where an RSVP committee is formed each year in order to better manage it, drawing from the expertise of local volunteers employed in various industries around St. Charles Parish.
All toys needed for the event are supplied each year by both Toys for Tots, the Times Picayune Doll and Gift fund, as well as toy donations from various other clubs. United Way funds help buy refreshment, coloring books, craft and other supplies needed to run the event each year.
“After COVID-19 and the generous support from Toys for Tots, Parish President Matthew Jewell decided that all families needed help, so the Toy and Gift Event invited all children from birth to 16 years old to come and share in this beautiful experience,” Arabie commented.
Arabie said residents can assist with the St. Charles Parish Toy and Gift Event by donating to one of the many contributing organizations like United Way or Toys for Tots. Toys for Tots has donation boxes situated throughout the local area, making it easier for residents to drop off toy donations.