Santa’s Helpers are at it again – spreading Christmas cheer to families throughout the parish.
In their 27th year, in collaboration with area schools, Santa’s Helpers of West Baton Rouge provided toys and clothing to children of local families in need.
“We send applications out to the schools… and they give us names of the needy children and we take it and buy toys for them,” said Teri Bergeron, Chairperson for Santa’s Helpers and WBR School Board Member-at-Large.
This year, the organization provided gifts for more than 200 children, giving each two toys, a sweatshirt and a bag of candy. The children who received gifts were chosen by area schools’ guidance counselors, who were able to assess which families in the parish may be in financial strain.
“What they’ve been doing is providing Christmas for children of WBR Parish,” said Bergeron, who added that the Santa’s Helpers organization buys toys and sweatshirts, and receives donations towards the year’s end.
“People’s generosity was overwhelming this year – without it, we wouldn’t exist,” Bergeron said. “It was very humbling. We weren’t very concerned about how many toys we were going to have to buy just by the number of donations we received. Every time we turned around, somebody else was donating something. It was just a really good year for us.”
Bergeron said that monetary donations, as well as donations of toys, games and bikes, poured in this year with the help of local schools, companies and organizations.
She said that donors like Carruth Foundation and Amedysis Home Health Care have given to generously throughout for many years.
She said that this year Sweet Water Car Wash bought about 100 board games for children.
“That was a tremendous donation for us, because that was 100 less gifts that we had to buy,” Bergeron said.
Toy drives by Dow Chemical, Haloy Family School, Brusly High and Devall Middle brought in even more toys, while Port Allen’s new Walgreen’s store donated two large boxes of toys.
Bergeron said that when the parents of the children who would receive the gifts, picked up the toys, “some of them were touched beyond means.”
“They were very, very appreciative,” she said. “One guy told us that his kids wouldn’t have had Christmas this year, because he hadn’t been working. When you hear something like that, you wish you could’ve done more.”
Donations poured in to Santa’s Helpers of WBR so much this year that the organization was able to spread the wealth, donating toys other organizations.
“We did have a good bit of toys left over,” Bergeron said, adding that many of the items were put into storage for next year. “But we also shared with the Sheriff’s crusade and a local church that was having a toy giveaway. We sent two big boxes of toys to each.”
Santa’s Helpers of WBR began in 1986 when former WBR School Board Member-at-Large, with the help of family members and friends, decided to start a program in West Baton Rouge similar to the GoodFellas Good Samaritans program in Baton Rouge that he had previously worked with.
In an article printed in the West Side Journal last year, Altazan said that his passion for the parish and heart for the area children moved him to create the organization.
Bergeron said that her desire is to continue helping the children throughout the parish for as long as she can through Santa’s Helpers.