Project Christmas - 2015   

Remember the excitement your children experienced on Christmas morning when they rushed to the tree to open their gifts? Maybe you and your family still reminisce over favorite Christmas dinner memories.

There are many children in St. Tammany Parish who cannot share in the excitement of Christmas mornings and family Christmas dinners. St. Tammany Project Christmas is working to change this. We are stewards who facilitate funds and gifts from the community for the children and food for a family Christmas dinner. These items are given to the parents the week before Christmas so that they can surprise their children with gifts on Christmas morning.

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History of Project Christmas 

 As Director of St. Luke the Evangelist Good Samaritan Ministry, Ann Creighton did her best to ensure that all families, especially the children, would have a wonderful Christmas. Unfortunately, year after year, she heard stories of people who got treated "royally" by St. Luke families, and then again by people from other churches. It was also discovered that there were some individuals who were selling the extra gifts they received on the streets of Slidell.

 Ann reached out to the other Churches and charitable agencies, which resulted in them meeting and developing a systematic process to register families for Christmas gifts and food, and to try to prevent duplication of services. Although they were a small group, at least it was a beginning.  The rationale behind all of this was that by checking to make sure families were adopted by only one agency or Church, more children and families would be able to receive assistance at Christmas.

One of the agencies that Good Samaritan Ministry always worked closely with was The Samaritan Center in Mandeville.  The Director at that time was Debbie Coleman.   When she heard what we were trying to do in Slidell, she was interested in joining forces.  Fr. Rodney Bourg, Pastor of St. Luke's at the time, was approached, as he was involved in the formation of a similar program in St. Bernard Parish.  Debbie and Ann then met with the Director of the St. Bernard Christmas Project seeking more ideas.

At this point, the group’s plan was to approach every church and charitable agency in St. Tammany Parish and invite them to join Project Christmas.  The goal was not to tell others how to run their Christmas programs, but instead to coordinate their programs in conjunction with Project Christmas.  In 2002, a Board was created, made up of Pastors of Churches of many denominations and leaders of community agencies or their representatives or anyone interested in helping the needy have a wonderful Christmas.  Some Churches and agencies choose not to join Project Christmas, but did share their lists of families in an effort to decrease duplication of services.  The original board, consisted of Harlin Adams, Lavondra Dobbs, Joycelyn King, Rochelle Kurucar, Christine Kennard, Clair Leger, Terry McGill, Pam Schultz, Nancy Stallings and Ann Creighton  They formed a charter and applied for a 501c3 tax exempt status; designed the Project Christmas logo; elected officers and began holding monthly meetings at different Churches.  Rochelle Kurucar, of Village Church Lutheran on Hwy. 190 in Lacombe was kind enough to offer their church hall for monthly meetings.  The added benefit was that it was centrally located in the parish, making it more convenient for people to attend the meetings.  Debbie and Ann continued to invite every Church and charitable agency throughout St. Tammany to monthly meetings by fax and letters.  Although some made the choice not to join, many chose to work with the group. 

By the time the first Christmas was on the calendar, Project Christmas had a full volunteer staff made up of representatives from various Churches, agencies, their families, friends, youth groups and more.  There were plenty of jobs available for everyone who wanted to help.  One of the volunteers, Pam Saltich, began a central data base of families listed on anyone's list for Christmas adoption.  Through bulletins, newspaper ads, etc., volunteers began to call.  Businesses, civic groups, individuals, etc. called to adopt families, a child or an elderly person, or to work or make a donation.  The St. Luke's Good Samaritan Ministry was the central sign up and adoption agency for the east end of the parish and The Samaritan Center, made up of many west St. Tammany churches, was the agency for the west end.  People, groups and businesses were calling to offer toys, bicycles, money, etc.

 That first year was a lot of work, but Project Christmas was blessed with many volunteers.  Joycelyn King ran the collection and distribution center on the west end.  She continued to do that each year until she became too sick and passed away.  It took many, many volunteers to take registration, verify each applicant’s documents, contact schools and other agencies, make angel tags for each child or elderly person's wish list, enter all in the data base, put them out for adoption, etc., etc., etc.  The Knights of Columbus and others made food baskets, each containing a turkey for the families on both sides of the parish.  The day of distribution was very rewarding to all involved.  The smiles and laughter, the tears of joy were well worth all the work.

 The program was very successful and grew each year, until 2005 (the year Hurricane Katrina struck).  Many of our volunteers were displaced and struggling themselves to rebuild and get their lives back in order.  It was a setback, but since then, the Board regrouped and is now serving more needy families than ever.  With program directors on each side of the parish, and the work of the volunteers, and all those who adopt a child, an elderly person or a family, or donate a dollar, the number of people Project Christmas helps to have a Merry Christmas is amazing.

It is not the work of one person or one Church or agency, but the work of many in the larger St. Tammany community who care and want to share what they have with the less fortunate. 

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webpage updated 10/29/15