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Giving Back: Reserve’s A’Zirea Alexander gives to homeless for her birthday

NEW ORLEANS — A’Zirea Alexander led a community effort Saturday providing food, clothing and health necessities to more than 200 underprivileged individuals.

The Reserve resident did so as a birthday wish, trading a traditional Sweet 16 party for an afternoon giving back in New Orleans.

Her team started by assisting needy families in the Ninth Ward and continued with the homeless population between Canal Boulevard and Claiborne Avenue.

A’Zirea and her mother, Angel Alexander, said the donation drive was successful despite stormy weather.

A’Zirea Alexander

“It’s important to give back because you never know what people are going through,” A’Zirea said. “Doing this could make them feel better. Try something you never thought you’d try before because you can learn so much from people you don’t know.”

Termed “Operation A’Zirea,” the charity drive included participation from A’Zirea’s family, her Pink Nails ENT mentorship group, Celebration Church of LaPlace’s Life Group members and New Orleans Mission.

Keith Kurtz, representing Love Thy Neighbor Foundation and Saints and Sinners Restaurant, donated food after hearing about Operation A’Zirea from Pastor David Ford with Celebration Church.

A’Zirea’s family was on scene dressed in camouflage shirts with the religious fish and bread logo, a symbol of when Jesus fed thousands.

The underprivileged formed an assembly line, picking up lunches, canned groceries, clothing and personalized hygiene kits full of items collected from community members.

Organizers said it took a group effort to make Saturday a positive event.

Women’s hygiene bags contained sanitary items, toothpaste and other toiletries, while men’s bags included an extra pair of socks or a razor, A’Zirea said.

Life Group girls distributed food and plastic bag sleeping mats they have worked on throughout the summer.

Angel said her family is grateful to Pastor David Ford and everyone who donated items, money or time.

People came to volunteer from as far away as Mississippi, she said, and no one backed out when dark clouds brought rain.

She was blown away when A’Zirea told her about her 16th birthday wish in the late spring. Even though it required a lot of high stress coordination, Angel is immensely proud of her daughter for acting selflessly at such a young age.

A’Zirea Alexander said she will always remember the personal stories shared by the less fortunate.

“It has been a learning experience,” Angel said. “We complain every day in our lives, but there are people on the streets who have no where to go. They don’t know when their next meal or bath will be. I was so happy my daughters got to interact with these people personally.”

A’Zirea said she’ll never forget the grateful smiles on people’s faces or the stories they told about falling down on their luck at the drop of a hat.

“If I could do it again, I wouldn’t change it,” A’Zirea said. “I like the way we did everything.”

In the future, the family plans to partner with Love Thy Neighbor to help feed the needy.