Salvation Army delivers hope & Christmas cheer; Gifts provided for 200 children & seniors in St. John

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 22, 2021

LAPLACE — Toys, clothes and requested gifts were distributed to families of more than 1,200 children and seniors through Salvation Army’s Angel Tree and Silver Bell programs. This included approximately 200 families in St. John the Baptist Parish, where the impact of Hurricane Ida has created an overwhelming need this Christmas season.
Salvation Army volunteers Maritza Narez and Chat Francois were on hand during a distribution held last Friday at Victorious Life Family Worship Center in LaPlace.
“We wanted to come to LaPlace because this area was so impacted by Hurricane Ida. A lot of families in this area are struggling without homes or trying to rebuild from the storm. This is a way to lighten the load for them for Christmas,” Narez said. “We want to be a blessing for them so they won’t have the burden of buying Christmas gifts.”
Families with children ages 12 and under and seniors ages 65 and older registered for the Angel Tree and Silver Bell programs in November. Each individual was able to make a personalized wish list to be fulfilled by compassionate individuals with a heart for giving back.
Families were blessed abundantly, with some children even receiving shiny new bicycles. According to Narez, families with multiple children were excited to find that each child had a separate bag waiting for them with an assortment of gifts.
Many St. John the Baptist Parish seniors in the Silver Bell program received household gifts to assist with their Hurricane Ida recovery. Some of these gifts included new comforters and sheets, lamps, crockpots, dinnerware sets, bath towels, walkers and other essentials.
Each child and senior also received a Rouses gift card to help with purchasing food this Christmas.
The Salvation Army Greater New Orleans Command serves St. John Parish, as well as Orleans, Jefferson, Plaquemines, St. Bernard, St. Charles and St. Tammany parishes.
“We do this every year,” Narez said. “Anyone is welcome to sign up, and anyone who wants to adopt a family can do so by going to our website.
Apostle Renita Graber and members of the Victorious Life Family Worship congregation assisted with the Angel Tree/Silver Bells registration and provided helping hands during last Friday’s distribution event.
Church member Tawanda Thomas said it was touching to see some of the local seniors with tears in their eyes as they picked up their gifts.
“People are devastated. They’ve lost everything in the hurricane, and not just physically. Some of them have lost hope, and we need to restore that,” Thomas said. “This is about giving them hope, not just giving them stuff. That’s why we are here. The people we have volunteering here are intercessors that pray. When we pray for people, we need to be able to discern that something is going on with this person and be able to speak a word of comfort to them as necessary.”
During the distribution, volunteers saw some familiar, smiling faces of people who recognized them from the on-site registration event.
“People remember how we treat them, not just the gifts they get,” Thomas said.