Last year 11,639 Christmas toys were distributed to St. Charles Parish children in the aftermath of Hurricane Ida. The first shipment of toys that will be handed out this year was delivered last week, and Toys for Tots Area Coordinator Devona L’Herisse said there’s just one problem – she has nowhere to store them.
Another issue, she said, is that there are thousands of more toys coming in.
“Our main struggle this year is finding a donated warehouse,” L’Herisse said. “In the past we used storage units.”
The lack of storage units left available after Hurricane Ida is one reason a warehouse is needed. Another reason is that last year the toy giveaway was opened up to every child in St. Charles Parish and not just families who qualified as low-income. L’Herisse said that decision was made because so many children lost their belongings in the hurricane.
This year’s toy giveaway, also open to every child, will once again be held in conjunction with St. Charles Parish government at the Edward Dufresne Center in Luling. This year L’Herisse is also partnering with the St. John the Baptist Parish Sheriff’s Office to distribute toys to that community.
“Between St. John and St. Charles I’m hoping to collect 50,000 toys,” she said.
L’Herisse has participated with Toys for Tots for the past nine years, and said she always finds it rewarding. This month her main goal is to find a warehouse and to spread the word about the 2022 Toys for Tots campaign to local businesses who may be interested in housing collection bins to accept toy donations.
“I love my community,” she said. “I grew up in St. Charles Parish, and the community puts a lot into our kids. So many kids are still struggling. I feel like these are our kids, and I want to make sure all of our kids have things for Christmas.”
L’Herisse said it’s easy to forget that there are so many people around the community who really need help.
“I remember one year … it was right before COVID and my daughter was a junior at Destrehan. She told me that she met a girl that she wanted to help,” L’Herisse said. “We went to visit her at her house and in their house there was a Christmas tree drawn out of construction paper … they pieced it together … like a normal-sized Christmas tree all just taped to the wall.”
She said the experience is a perfect example of why she volunteers.
“We may not be rich, but when you have things it makes you think about what you can give,” she said. “My kids took our tree and went and delivered it there.”
L’Herisse said the annual toy giveaway is a lot of work, but that it is something that so many people in the community really need.
“It’s rewarding to see our kids picking toys and getting something,” L’Herisse said. “It’s something that they saw and that they want. Without our community’s support this wouldn’t be possible.”
Anyone interested in offering storage space for toys or finding out more information about the St. Charles distribution can contact L’Herisse at 225-316-7346.
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