Bringing cheer to old and young

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 25, 2013

By David Vitrano

RESERVE – With events that brought smiles to the faces of some of the parish’s youngest and oldest residents, the St. John the Baptist Parish Young Marines did their part to spread Christmas cheer the days leading up to Dec. 25.
Since just after Thanksgiving, the group — with some help of Gold Eagle Security, Raising Cane’s and L’Observateur — had been collecting toys for parish youth as well as donations for residents of the Southeast Louisiana War Veterans Home in Reserve.
The effort began as a joint effort between the Young Marines and L’Observateur but has added new partners each year, and this year the Riverside Academy band joined in. The band recently held a Christmas concert with the price of admission being one toy for the parish’s underprivileged youth.
According to Band Booster President Gail Hill, the band hopes to take part again next year with a more focused game plan.
“Next year it could be so much bigger,” said Hill.
Still, with the band’s help, the Young Marines were able to collect more than 600 toys, which were distributed in Edgard Sunday following Mass at St. John the Baptist Catholic Church.
The group of Young Marines and Riverside band members followed that up Monday with a visit to the veterans home, where they passed out items such as blankets, slippers and socks, along with some special items. The Marine Corps Reserve donated thermoses and a manger at the LaPlace Firestone made small American flags that can be displayed in residents’ rooms at the home.
According to Young Marines Unit Commander Brian Bertrand, the group effort is very much in keeping with the spirit of both Christmas and the Young Marines.
“One thing we all learned in the military is teamwork,” he said, adding, “For the third year in a row we’ve been able to raise over $1,000.”
This year’s gift package also included a special treat for the veterans — $250 to be used for Saturday Bingo games.
“We know 2 o’clock is the magic time at the veterans home,” said Bertrand.
Southeast Louisiana War Veterans Home Activities Director Sonya Hebert said the event is special for the residents there but far from the only time the St. John Parish Young Marines can be seen at the facility.
“They’ve looked so forward to it, but the Young Marines are here all the time,” she said. “Whenever we need them, they’ll come.”