The smiles say it all

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 18, 2013

By David Vitrano

LULING — The smiles on the children’s faces told the story. This Christmas would be one to remember.
River Parishes gas station and convenience store chain Birdies, in partnership with Citgo and Johnson Oil, switched up its annual holiday giveaway a little bit this year by taking 11 families under its wing, providing gifts for each member of the family as well as a few extras to make the holidays that much better.
“You have been invited to a very special event today,” said Luling Elementary School Principal Vanessa Terry to the room filled with lucky recipients of all ages.
In past years, Birdies has partnered with other schools in the River Parishes for its holiday giveaway, and typically presents were only given to selected students at the schools.
But this year, the event took a little bit of a different format, according to E.J. Landry Counselor Iman En-Nabut, more commonly known as Dr. E. She said when she and the other counselors were going over the Christmas lists, they were shocked by the simplicity of some of the requests.
“Some of the things the kids ask for, you’d be surprised,” she said.
Many of the lists contained items most children would take for granted, such as a football or a turkey to eat on Christmas day. En-Nabut said it was at that point that they realized giving one member of the family might bring a smile to the child’s face momentarily, but without the rest of the family included, the holiday still might not be a happy one. So instead of nominating individual students, entire families were nominated this year.
As part of the giveaway, each member of the family received one or two gifts from their respective wish lists, plus some children, usually one from each family, received a bicycle, scooter or skateboard. Parents were also given a Birdies gift card, and each family was given an old-fashioned board games, such as Candy Land or Sorry!, to promote familial togetherness.
Birdies General Mana  ger Mike Nabut said the event is just a way for the business to give back to the community that supports it.
“They’re all our regular customers anyway,” he said. “It feels good. I even pulled my kids out of school to teach them something about giving back.”
Shera Borne, who has six children and whose family was one of those selected for the giveaway, said, “It was beautiful. We really enjoyed it, and it was a gift from God. It was a good help for me.”