With the semester coming to a close and the holidays just around the corner, “The Chicks” decided to do a project that tied into the theme of “giving.” We did this by visiting some of Louisville’s well-known charitable organizations to get a first-hand look at how people are giving back to others in the community this holiday season. The organizations we focused on were St. Vincent de Paul’s, Toys for Tots, and the Salvation Army Angel Tree.
Our first stop on the list was St. Vincent de Paul’s (SVDP) Open Hand Kitchen, a soup kitchen located on South Jackson Street, just a few minutes from U of L’s campus. SVDP offers various services including: shelter for the homeless, drug rehabilitation, counseling services, and of course it’s Open Hand Kitchen, which serves two meals a day (lunch and dinner) to anyone who shows up. The kitchen serves roughly 120,000 meals each year and does not turn anyone in need away.
St. Vincent’s relies on generous donations from the community to stay running. They accept everything from canned and dry goods to paper products and clothing. Their mission is to “reach out to the poor in Christian compassion, without judgment regarding matters of faith, background or circumstance.” And the volunteers at SVDP truly embrace that credo and they welcome their clientele, offering them a safe haven and a warm meal. But SVDP offers more than that, it offers it’s clients a sense of community, a refuge from their often harsh reality. It is a place they know they can turn to when there is no where else for them to go. The clients who come to SVDP come from various walks of life: homeless, the “working poor,” families, and some who suffer from mental illness and are thus unable to work to provide for themselves.
Our next stop was the warehouse for Toy’s for Tots, which is also located just a few minutes from campus. Toys for Tots was established in Los Angeles in 1947 and has been teamed up with the U.S. Marine Corp Reserve Program since its’ inception. The chapter located here in Louisville is run by Coordinator, (Ret.) Captain Cletis S. Evans, who helped deliver an impressive 17,888 toys to children last year in Jefferson, Oldham, Shelby, and Spencer Counties. Evans, who has an impressive resume including a long list of military honors, and service in Operation Desert Shield and Desert Storm, as well as Operation Iraqi Freedom, was also featured in NFocus Magazine for his great work with the organization.
Upon meeting Evans, it is easy to see his passion for the Toys for Tots program; he truly believes in the message he and the other volunteers are trying to deliver. The message is one of hope. Evans and his team strive to give less fortunate children across Kentuckiana hope, which will ultimately help them to become “responsible, productive, patriotic citizens.” Toys for Tots, as an organization, believes that they are investing in one of our nation’s most valuable resources–it’s children.
Toys for Tots is currently looking for both volunteers and donations for the rest of it’s collection and distribution campaign. There are boxes at businesses all over the Louisville area where donations can be made and they accept new, unwrapped toys. Toys for Tots also partners with the Salvation Army’s Angel Tree campaign; the two charitable organizations share workspace as well as toy donations. For children who are not “adopted” (and thereby receive a toy/gift) through the Angel Tree program, Toys for Tots supplements by using some of their donations to provide toys. The two work in perfect tandem as their ultimate goal is the same: to help as many kids as possible wake up on Christmas morning with a sense of wonder and hope.
The Salvation Army Angel Tree program began in 1984 and the program works by “adopting” a paper angel. Each angel represents a child in need and the item they need/want is listed on the angel. Once adopted, it’s as simple and purchasing the necessary item and returning it to the Angel Tree location (many are located in heavily populated shopping areas to make it convenient) where they will deliver the toy to your newly-adopted angel. Like Toys for Tots, Angel Tree’s mission is to provide underprivileged children with toys on Christmas morning, to “let them know someone cares.”
It’s often said that “charity starts at home” and even if Louisville isn’t your birthplace or the city you intend to live in forever, it’s never a bad idea to leave a place a little bit better than you found it. Even if it’s just donating a sweater you never wear anymore or giving your time to help feed those less fortunate, there is always an opportunity to do something that helps others this holiday season. For local charities looking for volunteers, information can be found at: http://www.volunteermatch.org. For more information about the charities listed, visit their website(s):
St. Vincent de Paul’s: http://www.svdplou.org.
Toys for Tots: http://louisville-ky.toysfortots.org.
Salvation Army Angel Tree: http://www.prisonfellowship.org/Angeltree
Video and Article done by Makayla Moore, Kristen Lotze, Cherrelle Marable, and Sarah Burge.