Robichaux: Giving makes a memorable impact

Published 12:00 am Saturday, November 23, 2019

As a gentleman walked into the L’OBSERVATEUR office this week, he took note of an empty Toys for Tots box sitting near the entryway.

The box hasn’t been here for long. Pastor Alfreda DeVare, one of the local coordinators for the Toys for Tots initiative, delivered it after we volunteered to become a toy collection site.

Seeing the box untouched and empty didn’t sit right with the gentleman. After paying his bill, he took a ride to Dollar General and returned with a toy in hand. Next month, the pack of rocket balloons he donated will surely brighten the spirit of a child in need.

It’s the time of year when temperatures drop, Christmas music blares on the radio and in every store, and you start to hear the phrase, “It’s better to give than to receive.”

I’m reminded of December 2016, when I saw firsthand the impact a toy collection can have on a family. My mother works in early intervention and often visits the homes of parents who work their hardest but still struggle to get by, all while rising to the challenge of caring for a child with special needs.

There was one large family my mother felt compelled to help that year. The stacks of toys she and others collected for the children suddenly tripled when my fiancé, then boyfriend, nominated the family for the annual Christmas drive at his father’s workplace.

Six of us got out of my mom’s SUV carrying Santa-sized sacks of presents over our shoulders. The children were in between a state of excitement and disbelief. One moment, they would cheer and lift the bags to guess what could be inside (they were instructed to wait to open most of the presents). The next, they would turn to their mother and grandmother incredulously and ask, “This is really for me?”

The mother was overwhelmed with emotion and tears blotted her eyes. I remember her saying thank you didn’t feel like a powerful enough word as she embraced my mother. After saying goodbye, we rode home as a family, and all felt right with the world.

Giving doesn’t have to be expensive. My 8th grade sister and her friends have started a tradition of giving each other sentimental boxes for birthdays and special occasions. She will fill the box up with items of her friend’s favorite color purchased from Dollar General or CVS. Maybe it’s a green pack of gum or a blue Gatorade mixed in with color-coded snacks, trinkets and facemasks. She prints pictures of her with said friend to glue to the outside of the box and puts a strand of thin fairy lights around the outside. The result is a sweet, personalized gift.

Other giving back efforts are large scale and impact hundreds, but it takes the participation of many to make it happen. As a news writer, I’m happy to say heartwarming stories are easy to come by at this time of year in St. John Parish.

There are pastors and business owners preparing turkey giveaways and families collecting materials to feed the homeless. Others are gifting bikes, toys and financial assistance. To list every local person I see making a difference would take more space than I have to write and more words than anyone would be willing to read. I hope to highlight as many of these good deeds as possible in our upcoming newspaper editions.

If you are looking for a small way to make a difference in the meantime, please consider donating to our Toys for Tots box at 116 Newspaper Drive, directly behind Destiny Christian Center on Main Street in LaPlace. We are accepting unwrapped toys and gifts for children ages 0 to 12.

If you would like to request Toys for Tots gifts for your children or someone else in need, call the local organizer at 985-287-2161.

Have a wonderful holiday season, St. John Parish!

Brooke Robichaux is news editor for L’OBSERVATEUR. She can be reached at 985-652-9545

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