Ways to Give Back in New Orleans this Holiday Season

It’s hard to believe, but the holidays are right around the corner. Between the Christmas community service in New Orleans | New Orleans Moms Blog candy on the aisles of Target in October, the advertisements on TV and the endless promotions for Christmas sleepwear in your Facebook newsfeed, it is really, really hard not to get caught up in the excess of the holidays. Just as we all struggle to turn down that 3rd glass of wine and 5th dessert, it’s often challenging to not worry about how many presents will be under the tree and if our kids will have “enough.”

But at the end of the day, I think we’d all agree that we are truly blessed beyond measure. Our children don’t need five more toys; what they really cherish is spending time with us. There’s a reason that we’ve all heard the joke about “we buy all these expensive presents and they just want to play with the boxes!” At New Orleans Moms Blog, we’ve been talking a lot about how to be intentional with our children in approaching the holiday season. The truth is that the holidays are whatever we make them; if we buy 20 presents per child from the time they are young, then that is what they expect. If we set the standard closer to 3 gifts, then that becomes more than ample. It’s never too late to incorporate giving and community service into your holiday traditions.

This holiday season, we challenge each of you to find at least one meaningful way to give back to our community. To make it even easier, we’ve compiled some ideas for you!

Ways to Give Back in New Orleans this Holiday Season

Second Harvest Food Bank

Did you know that one in eight people in Louisiana struggles with hunger? Unfortunately, hunger in South Louisiana is a very real problem facing many families. But the good news is that with every $1 donated, Second Harvest can provide the equivalent of $15.50 in grocery/food items. If you are short on time, it is quite simple to donate to this cause, though we’d recommend asking your children to each save towards this goal or somehow be intentional so that they recognize the cause your family has chosen and why. It would also be easy to take the children on a shopping trip to the store and then visit one of their warehouses to deliver the items in person. Second Harvest also has many volunteer shifts available, which could be a great way to engage your older children in this important cause.

St. Tammany Project 

holiday community service in New Orleans | New Orleans Moms Blog
Picking out holiday gifts!

St. Tammany Project Christmas started in 2002 to provide gifts and a Christmas dinner to children in need in St. Tammany Parish, Louisiana. Children are accepted for the program if their families qualify under Federal poverty guidelines, and the organization consults with other local charities to avoid duplication of services. What we love about this initiative is that it is focused on maintaining dignity for the families involved. Project Christmas enables needy families to experience and share Christmas as family. Families pick up their gifts and food baskets several days in advance so their children can be surprised on Christmas Day. How amazing is that? Additionally, applicants must provide documentation demonstrating need in order to participate, so you can rest assured that your adopted family is truly in need. There are lots of ways to get involved with Project Christmas, and what could be a better way to show your children the true meaning of the holiday season?

Food Bank of Covington

The Covington Food Bank serves the tri-parish area of St. Tammany, Tangipahoa and Washington. An average of 20% of the people who reside in these parishes live in poverty, so the need for food is very real here as well. As with Second Harvest, you can donate your time, money or food to this great cause. In addition to serving as a food bank, there is also a thrift store and dental clinic on site. There is truly a volunteer opportunity for everyone at the Food Bank of Covington, so we encourage readers on the Northshore to reach out and lend a hand.

Samaritan’s Purse

While not local, this is a project that is easy and really tangible for children. Through Operation Christmas Child, you can shop with your little ones to fill a shoebox of essentials like soap and toothbrushes, as well as toys, for a boy or girl in a specific age Christmas community service in New Orleans | New Orleans Moms Bloggroup. Then, you include the cost of mailing it ($7) and drop it off during collection week (November 12-19) at one of the receiving locations around the New Orleans area. Rayne Memorial (uptown on St. Charles) is one receiving location, though there are many others. Our contributor Courtney shared, “Our family was attracted to Operation Christmas Child because it seemed a way to get both needed and wanted items to children in need. We want Jack to see the Christmas season as a time for giving, not receiving, so we wanted to involve him fully in this project. As a way to personalize it for him, I printed out pictures of boys and girls. Jack had a great time at Target helping us decide what these children might like/need. When we had things at home, we put the pictures on the ground and then divided up the items based on what he thought each one would like.  It was fun for both of us and I think the message sunk in because Jack went back later and added his fire helmet to one of the piles because he said “that boy might need a fire helmet.””  In honor of Christmas, New Orleans Moms Blog has shopped with their children and packed several shoeboxes for distribution around the world in years past.

Poydras Home and/or Christwood Retirement Community

Nothing lights up a room like children and babies, and this is particularly true in retirement homes. Volunteers and families are always welcome, though we recommend contacting Poydras Home (or any other retirement community) in advance to arrange your visit. It is an easy and simple way to make someone else’s day brighter, especially around the holidays when individuals living in retirement homes might be lonely. Consider attending tea and staying to visit, or bring an activity/craft for the residents to enjoy. I have a friend who recently shared that her infant daughter was held by a woman who was over 100 years old during a visit, and I think that is just really, really neat.

Ronald McDonald House

The Ronald McDonald House on Canal Street provides a home away from home for families seeking specialized medical care in Ronald McDonald House | New Orleans Moms Blogthe New Orleans area. The home’s children and their families have come from 63 out of 64 parishes in Louisiana, many states across the country and all over the world. There are many ways to give back, and you could even consider taking your children shopping for items on the home’s “wish list” and then making a special delivery. Consider coloring cards with your family and then mailing them or dropping them off for the families to enjoy. The Ronald McDonald House also welcomes snack baskets or bags for the families as well, which are helpful for taking to the hospital. Or, the home has a pop tab program (the little tops on cans), which is easy for families; simply collect the tabs and deliver to the house as they then send them to the recycling center and receive compensation in return.

New Orleans Mission

Founded in 1989, the New Orleans Mission provided Shelter, Food and Spiritual guidance to a growing number of homeless men who were living on the streets of our city. You can donate and/or volunteer to provide a meal for someone in need this coming holiday.

Random Acts of Kindness

When it comes to giving back, don’t forget that you can be creative in your service! Consider small gestures of love and kindness during the holiday season. Consider baking cookies for your postman, UPS driver, garbage men or local fire station (a personal favorite for Courtney’s son Jack!). Put granola bars in the center console of your car and make it a habit to hand one out every time your family encounters a homeless individual while driving around. Take the opportunity to put on holiday music and clean out drawers, closets and garages – what better time of year to collect donations and bring them to those in need?

We’d like to encourage all of our readers this holiday season is to pick one idea from the list above (or come up with your own) and follow through. We have over 33,000 Facebook fans, 6,300+ Twitter followers and thousands of readers visiting the blog every day. Can you imagine how many lives we can positively affect if we each choose one?

Leave a comment letting us know how you plan to give back this holiday season!

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Ashley is the Co-Owner of New Orleans Mom, Red Stick Mom and Lafayette Mom, now the largest network of parenting websites in South Louisiana. Proud graduates of the University of Virginia, she and her husband Blaise spent time in Tampa and Scottsdale prior to settling down back home in New Orleans, something they both said "would never happen." An avid runner, she'll try any workout at least once and is always up for sweating with friends. When she’s not shuttling her 3 very active kids to school, gymnastics or baseball, you can find her cheering for the Saints, trying new restaurants or spending time with family and friends. She's also not afraid to return mediocre books to the library before finishing them because life is too short for bad books. A native New Orleanian, Ashley loves exploring and discovering the beauty of South Louisiana through her growing children's eyes.

15 COMMENTS

  1. I am going to talk to my son about Second Harvesters Food bank this evening & start a “savings bank” for our donation. I’m going to encourage him to put a portion of his weekly allowance in it. Thanks for the great ideas. I esp. love the one about the granola bar. Going to do that for sure! Happy Holidays!

    • Love that – great idea! Please share this post with your friends, too – we really feel like as a group of moms we can make a huge difference in our community and lead by example!

  2. I love this! I have coordinated a toiletry drive (soaps, toothbrushes/paste, shampoo, etc) to handout at the Homeless Dinners on Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day at BridgeHouse (in New Orleans) – we all grab the free toiletries at hotels and shove in a closet and never use – and these people are soooo appreciative to have a bar of soap – or clean underwear. Quite a humbling experience!

    • What a neat idea! It truly is humbling for our children to witness how meaningful a bar of soap or toothpaste can be to someone. Definitely makes the toys and knick knacks seem less important. Thank you for helping us spread the word about these opportunities!

  3. Every year I pull out my scrapbooking supplies and my children and I make approx 25 – 30 handmade Holiday cards for each holiday to take to local nursing homes for the residents. We use family time starting around Halloween to make handcrafted dolls, flower ink pens and jewelry to hand out randomly to people that look like they need a pickme up around the Holidays when we are out and about. I also take my younger children shopping for gifts they would like to receive and we wrap them. For the past 5 years we have delivered these gifts to Covenant House New Orleans.

    This summer we moved to Texas and will be continuing these activities here. I started an on-line Mary Kay business so that I can send monetary contributions to community organizations back in NOLA and my children help me package my shipments with personalized notes letting people know which organization recieved a percentage of the sales from their order. This way I can keep my children involved and teach them to never forget where they came from and always take care of things at home.

    • What amazing ideas – your children are blessed to have a mother who is showing them what a generous spirit is all about! Thank you so much for sharing.

  4. Going to help out with the no junior league with the emerge program. We are given a child that has not missed school, etc with a list and go to Walmart with a gift card an purchase some things off their list and wrap it up and they give it out at a party before chriatmas

  5. My mom and I always try to grab one or two angels off the Salvation Army “adopt and angel” tree at the mall! this is a reminder to grab one or two during the holidays!

  6. you girls are amazing! thanks so much for sharing all of these ideas. while we aren’t in your neck of the woods for those specific service projects, we are going to carry things over up north 🙂 so proud of y’all.

  7. Great Post Ashley! I was so glad to have come across this post. Like you said, its very easy to get caught up, like most of us do, in the ‘wants’ of life that we tend to think we absolutely need. Its great to read an article such as this every once in a while and to know how many people it may reach. Thank you for all of the wonderful volunteer links you have provided.
    I try every year to get my children involved in a ‘pay it forward’ type of way. In my family life I try and show my children the needs of others and how one little thing may be a BIG thing to someone else. I think this is a great lesson learned by people young and old. It gives you such a sense of joy to know you are in some way leaving a mark in someone else’s life. Very humbling indeed.
    I am also a co-leader for a Junior Girl Scout troop and we plan to get the girls involved volunteering for the Holidays. So, thank you!

  8. What a great post Ashley! You are so right that we tend to get wrapped up in what we a ‘want.’ So its very refreshing to see a post like this, reminding us what life is all about. I try very hard to raise my children with compassionate hearts and to know that they can make a difference even in a small way. Each year we try to get involved in some kind of community service. Its a very good life lesson for the young and old to understand and step out of the ‘all about me’ box. Paying it forward can mean something as little as, like you said, donating all those little bottles of shampoo/conditioner to someone in need. Its the little things that make a BIG DIFFERENCE! It also gives you a great big humbling dose of pride, knowing you made a difference in someones life. I love feeling that and knowing I can make someones life just a little brighter 🙂
    I am also a co-leader to a Junior Girl Scout troop. Last year we handed out toys to the children in need in Kenner. That was a big eye opener for a lot of the girls. Here they were handing one toy to children ranging from infancy to 16, and for some that would be the only present they received. Nothing from Santa or mom and dad, just this one toy. It really does touch your heart to know you make a difference…

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