Truckload of food, toys given to family in need

First National Bank USA adopts family each year

What started as giving a neighbor in need a Christmas tree has grown into a truckload of food and toys for an entire family who otherwise may not have had enough to eat.

“It’s definitely grown over the years,” said Audrey Raziano, First National Bank USA’s senior vice president and chief administrative officer. “When I tell you we fill an entire inside of a truck bed, I’m telling you it’s full. We overwhelm them with gifts, and we were told by this year’s family that this is the best year they’ve ever had. “With both employees and bank, the spirit of generosity is alive and well.

“It’s the true meaning of Christmas,” Raziano said. “It’s so nice to buy gifts for people who really need it. This is Christmas.”

And it’s been this way for the last 12 years, according to Raziano. This includes the “Katrina year” when they adopted a displaced New Orleans family who lost everything.

Around 2002, a co-worker in Des Allemands learned about a nearby family who had so little they couldn’t even afford a Christmas tree, so they provided one. When others heard about it, they chipped in gifts, too.

“And that’s how it started,” she said of one of the parish’s most heartwarming stories about how bankers began adopting a family for Christmas every year.

Over the years, the giving evolved and expanded to include addressing wants – and need – with each family they adopt in St. Charles Parish.

By October, they get the family name from the bank’s adopted school, J.B. Martin Middle School, and then the bank’s 25 to 30 employees go to work on determining what the family wants and needs.

The employees rely on football pools to raise funds for the bigger items requested.

It’s all done with the bank’s approval and help, which Raziano emphasized makes it possible for them to adopt a family.

“It’s amazing the outpouring of support we get from the employees,” she said. “There’s some that have needs themselves, but when they see the family – they want to give.”

Bank customers also help, including Pastor Wanda Brown with Flames of Fire Church and her congregation.

“We’ve done a lot of things,” Raziano. “We’ve fixed the brakes on a lady’s car, and fixed an oven so a family will actually have a way to cook. You can name it over the years and we’ve provided it.”

Raziano said she’s always been amazed over what these families ask for, which typically includes basic necessities like toilet paper or paper towels. They help with this, but they also consider it important to ensure any child in the household gets what they want for Christmas.

“Once you visit them, you can see it’s not like they waste money,” she said. “The people we visit are really in need.”One family they helped was an older couple who took in six great nieces and nephews  when their parents were unable to care for them.

The family they helped last year included a single mother with cancer.

Raziano recalled another family with a husband, wife and child. When the boy heard they were bringing gifts, he asked if they could help his cousin, too. When they went to the residence to deliver them, it was a mobile home that got electricity from an extension cord that ran to a neighboring mobile home.

Raziano said this is where the people who give also receive, adding, it’s when a person realizes how blessed and fortunate they are.

Their giving includes a gift certificate for food so the family can buy what they like,she said.

“When that mom starts crying, you know that’s a need,” Raziano said. “She has something in her hand to buy food for her family.”

It’s a recognition among many that these givers have experienced in learning what kind of need exists is in the parish.

“Until we started doing this, I don’t think we realized how much in need some of these families were,” Raziano said.“You just don’t realize how deep that need is until you play Santa Claus.”

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