Hemelt: LaPlace family embraces season of giving

Published 12:03 am Friday, December 30, 2016

How did you spend your Christmas Eve and Christmas holidays?

I did my best to focus on others while embracing the reason for the season, but those efforts paled in comparison to LaPlace couple John and Jamie Angotti, as well as their daughters, 3-year-old Bella and 2-year-old Berkley.

The local family handed out food and backpacks full of supplies at New Orleans Mission, delivered toys to children at Ochsner Medical Center on Jefferson Highway and helped feed St. John the Baptist Parish firefighters.

The effort, part of annual charity performed by family members, centers on teaching the children to appreciate all they have while staying aware of the plight of the less fortunate.

“We want our kids to grow up knowing there are people who are struggling every single day, sometimes of their own choices and sometimes because of nothing they have done,” Jamie told me this week.

“We wanted to expose (Bella) early on, when she was 10 months old, to how very fortunate and blessed she is, healthwise, foodwise, financially. We live in a nice home. She has two educated parents. We have been very blessed. It’s not to say we didn’t work hard for it, but people work hard everyday, have nothing and are deserving of a whole lot more than they have.”

The family capped their holidays, Jamie said, by bringing food to LaPlace Volunteer Fire Department Station 53 on St. Andrews Boulevard, which included delivery of two turkeys, one ham, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, green beans, corn, pies and cookies.

The fire fighters even returned the favor, giving each little girl a colorful troll as a heartfelt “thank you.”

Jamie credited the entire episode to her 3-year-old daughter, who was inspired to reach out to the firefighters after enjoying a presentation from them at St. Joan of Arc Catholic School.

“I think, honestly, (Bella) was just born with a pure heart,” Jamie said. “My husband and I try to instill a lot in our kids, but she really, I think, brings out the best in us. She brings out the best in her baby sister. I mean, if she is not meant to be a nun when she grows up then I don’t know. She has a really pure heart. It’s genuinely giving and kind.”

That Christmas Day effort mirrored one from a day earlier when the family led a group of volunteers in a supply and meal giveaway at New Orleans Mission.

For approximately three hours, 200 people received backpacks, hats, socks, toiletries and a warm meal.

“We get toiletries and other items in bulk; it’s a little cheaper that way,” Jamie said. “My husband and I allocate a certain amount that is in our budget to order with before we ever announce that we are doing it. As the donations come in, we stuff backpacks and hand them out that morning. We try to figure out what we’re going to serve, what I’m going to cook. We set up our tables, our cooker and people just line up.”

The Christmas Eve meal included ground beef stew, satsumas, rolls, cookies, Gatorade, bottled water and coffee.

“We served 238 plates of food, and all the backpacks are gone so it went well,” Jamie said. “I feel more blessed than even those people are because we have been given an opportunity to do this. So many help us make this happen each year.”

The family capped the evening by handing a dozen age- and gender-specific toys to children at Ochsner in Jefferson, which is where John works.

“It’s a good family experience for all of us,” Jamie said.

“It’s great watching Bella lead her little sister in this thing we do as a family.”


Stephen Hemelt is publisher and editor of L’OBSERVATEUR. He can be reached at 985-652-9545 or stephen.hemelt@lobservateur.com.