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Giving Back: Local women put together bags of necessities for homeless & those struggling

LAPLACE — Eliza Eugene of LaPlace knows spare change can only go so far to help a person in need.

Leadean LeBeauf & Farlene Anderson Webb

Facial expressions tell a different story when Eugene hands out care packages filled with toiletries, socks and snacks. From surprise and gratitude, she sees the reactions and knows in her heart that each donation makes a difference.

Eugene, Jacquelyn Thomas Zeno, Ladean LeBeauf, Farlene Anderson Webb and Cheryl Jackson took a friendship born from church to the next level this summer when they started a service initiative to reach the underprivileged in St. John the Baptist Parish and beyond.

Together, the ladies have filled hundreds of Ziploc bags with toothpaste, toothbrushes, washcloths, soap, tissues, travel sized shampoo, conditioner, hand sanitizer, socks, snacks and bottled water.

There is no set drop-off location or delivery date; the bags are dispersed year-round, as needed when the ladies see people in need during daily commutes.

Eugene was inspired by Christopher and Christa Bauer, who relocated to the area with AECOM Hunt to help build an airport and handed out care packages to disperse.

The bags are now given out around the region, from New Orleans to St. John Parish, and the ladies plan to get more involved with local schools.

Care packages include toiletries, socks and snacks.

At Eugene’s Blessed to be a Blessing Backpack Extravaganza, not affiliated with the plastic bag project, she noted hygiene materials were a huge hit, even with children.

“There’s a greater homeless population in New Orleans, but we have a different type of need here in St. John Parish,” Eugene said. “In our school system, we had 85 percent of children receiving free lunch because their household income is less than $12,000. Now, everyone receives free lunch because there is a need for necessities, whether you have a roof over your head or not.”

The need is not limited to schoolchildren.

Eugene was happy to have donation bags on hand when she caught sight of a young man at a local dollar store, counting quarters to buy dish soap.

Webb was happy to dedicate her time to making bags, believing it’s important to show compassion for all.

“I love to talk to people, and if I ever see someone who needs something, they are welcome to it,” Webb said. “I have lots of nieces and nephews, and you don’t know what situation they are in because they are not here. If they ever need something, I hope someone would help them.”

LeBeauf agreed that the tables could easily turn, and you never know if you might end up in a dismal situation.

“To whom much is given, much is required,” is a message understood by many who saw Zeno purchasing donation items in the store and volunteered to help the cause, either by contributing their own items or making a monetary donation.

Volunteering is natural for Jackson, who knew she wanted to help the underprivileged each time she visited the French Quarter with her husband and saw the hopeless situations of some people living there.

St. John the Baptist Parish residents can help the cause by sending in their own monetary or item donations, even if it’s just travel sized shampoo bottles from hotel stays or unopened tooth brushes from the dentist’s office.

“When you have a group of people with a heart for giving, it makes it easy to do this,” Eugene said.

To schedule a donation pick-up, call Eugene at 985-359-9954.

Eugene’s Blessed to be a Blessing outreach is also planning a Thanksgiving meal distribution for the elderly, seniors and others in need from 8:30 to 10:30 a.m. Nov. 17 at East St. John High School.