Dec 24, 2008
Holiday Cheer Spread by Local Offices of DSS
State, regional and parish offices partner with local agencies
Department of Social Services employees wheel bikes out to be loaded into waiting vehicles. Employees across the state bought Christmas gifts for children receiving DSS services.
This week, more than 180 employees from the Louisiana Department of Children & Family Services along with the Governor’s Office collected toys and gifts to make this holiday season brighter for more than 140 children in the Baton Rouge area. This is one example of the way DSS employees across the state have partnered with other social service agencies to spread holiday cheer.
“At this time of year, and especially this year when times have been particularly trying for Louisiana’s families, it is inspiring to see DSS employees going the extra mile for the communities they serve,” said Secretary Kristy Nichols. “We fully support these types of partnerships with local organizations and we recognize the other offices around the state that are making similar efforts.”
Another example of a community service partnership is the Vermillion Parish Office of Family Support (OFS) and the Abbeville Junior Auxiliary. In addition to their regular service to the public, OFS staff and the members of the Junior Auxiliary became partners in an important community service effort to collect Christmas gifts for needy families.
Analysts from OFS provided the Junior Auxiliary with profiles of families with young children including the number of children, gender and clothing size information. Christmas gifts were then matched to each family profile and then a member of the family was able to come to the OFS and receive their gifts.
Through the generosity of those contributing to the Junior Auxiliary and as a result of the time and effort put in by the OFS staff, more than 100 Vermilion Parish families received Christmas gifts this year.
DSS offices around the state, partnered with local agencies to organize similar efforts. The following is a list of activities by parish:
Acadia Parish Office of Family Support (OFS) participates in fund raisers throughout the year. The money they raise is donated to various organizations each year such as the American Heart Walk, MDA, Alzheimer’s Association and Acadia Resources Center. Employees volunteer their time during a food drive, refer children for the Salvation Army’s Angel Tree and donate money to the Acadia Resource Center to buy gift wrap/tape for wrapping gift donations.
Allen Parish OFS sponsored a food drive and donated three boxes of food to a local food pantry.
The Allen Parish Foster Parents Association held a Christmas party for foster children and families on Dec.13 in Kinder.
Each year between Thanksgiving and Christmas, the OFS staff selects families in need as recipients for a holiday food drive sponsored by Ascension College in Gonzales. This year, the drive provided food to 5 families. The food boxes included turkeys and were delivered on Dec. 22.
The Avoyelles Parish OFS, partnered with the Office of Community Service (OCS) to purchase Christmas gifts for 38 children receiving DSS services. The gifts were wrapped and tagged with a child's name and were delivered Santa Claus.
Avoyelles Hospital donated one gift per child and the Moreauville Garden Club provided $20 gift cards for OCS children. The parish OCS gave out the gifts during an open on Dec. 22.
Grace Church, in conjunction with the Beauregard Parish Foster Parents Association, held their annual Christmas party for foster children on Dec. 12 with gifts provided by Court Appointed Special Advocates for Children (CASA) and the Beauregard Sheriff’s Office.
Support Enforcement Analyst Vershone Franks coordinated two holiday drives in which the Shreveport Support Enforcement Services (SES) Office participated. For Thanksgiving, the office donated bags of pasta to Pasta of Love; the pasta was included in Thanksgiving food boxes for 750 families in the community. Several employees volunteered on the Saturday before Thanksgiving to prepare and deliver the baskets.
For Christmas, the Shreveport SES office adopted a family from the Salvation Army Angel Tree. A total of $406 was collected for clothes, toys and gifts for the family - a mother of three children aged four, two and four months.
The Northwest Louisiana Foster/Adoptive Parent Association sponsored a Christmas party for foster children in the Caddo/Bossier area in December, while CASA volunteers in the Shreveport area donated gifts for children assigned to their care.
KTBS-TV aired a 30-minute Christmas special featuring children available for adoption. The TV-special included gift giving and aired several times during the holidays to promote community awareness of the need for adoptive homes for older children.
Barksdale Air Force Base held two Christmas parties for children in foster care and family services from Caddo, Bossier, Webster and DeSoto parishes. A skating party was held for children aged 13-17 and a second party was held for children 12 years old and under.
The Bossier-Shreveport Car Council participated in a Santa Run on Dec. 13. The group delivered gifts to organizations in Shreveport/Bossier, the first stop being OCS Family Services.
In addition, the Red River Mustang Club of Bossier Parish donated Christmas gifts for Bossier OCS children, and Reconciling All Mankind organization donated gifts to foster care and family services children in the 10-parish region.
For the past seven years, the Lake Charles Regional OFS has participated in the local effort called the Giving Wreath, which donates food, toys and tricycles to the KPLC TV Community Christmas.
The Lake Charles SES office sponsored a food drive during the months of October, November and December. They delivered canned foods to Abraham's Tent, a local food bank that feeds the homeless and needy. They made one delivery to Abraham’s Tent before Thanksgiving and an additional donation for Christmas.
The Calcasieu-Cameron Foster Parents’ Association held its annual Christmas party for foster children on Dec. 6 in Lake Charles.
Project Celebration, a non-profit organization in Many, collected community donations in the parishes of DeSoto, Red River, Sabine and Natchitoches for area foster care children, and DeSoto Parish business owner Diane Boyt held a Toys for Tots drive for DeSoto children.
East Baton Rouge
DSS employees in State Office Headquarters began an effort to collect blankets, hats, gloves, socks and other winter weather gear to donate to homeless families in the Baton Rouge area. Donations were collected in the main lobby of the Iberville Building.
In addition, Brave Heart - Children in Need, Inc., a non-profit organization working with children who have been removed from their homes due to abuse and/or neglect, provided Baton Rouge OCS with more than 500 gift bags for OCS children. St. George Catholic Church also sponsored a giving tree to benefit children in family services and BJ’S Restaurant will provide for 3 families identified by OCS.
Evangeline Parish OFS participated in a local annual food drive. Staff collected food and non-food items.
Ville Platte SES completed a toy drive on Dec. 22, and delivered a large load of toys to the local sub-station of Faith House, a shelter for women. Also, on Dec. 10 the office delivered several boxes of non-perishable foods to the local Food for Families Food Drive, which is held in conjunction with KFLY TV 10 in Lafayette.
The Iberia Parish OFS's purchased toys for 30 children -- aged newborn to 2 years old -- from the First Time Mother's Program at the Iberia Parish Health Unit. They also donated money to purchase toys for children aged 0-6 through the Early Childhood Support and Services program.
The Iberia Parish Rotary Club, in partnership with the parish OCS, held a Foster Care Christmas party on December 11 at Highland Baptist Church Hall.
Jeff Davis OFS sponsored an office food drive for Caring Hands, a community resource in Jennings. They collected 2 boxes of food for the drive.
The SES and the Family Assistance staff in Lafayette worked together to provide non-perishable items for the Faith House women’s shelter in Lafayette.
Brave Heart - Children in Need, Inc. sponsored a toy drive with the intent of providing gifts for all 1,200 children in the 8-parish Acadiana region.
The Lafayette Parish OCS hosted a number of events for prospective adoptive families and children and adolescents who are legally available for adoption. The events were held in partnership with PHI, Inc. and the Junior League of Lafayette throughout the month of December. A picnic sponsored by Brave Heart - Children in Need, Inc., OCS, CASA and Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist also was held at Girouard Park in Lafayette.
Morehouse Parish Foster Children’s Christmas party was held on Dec. 17, and was sponsored by law enforcement and other community members.
Through their local CASA office, the Natchitoches District SES office "adopted" two foster children for Christmas. The staff of 18 donated $275, which allowed them to purchase a majority of the items on the children’s Christmas lists, including an MP3 player, a digital camera, board games, two outfits for each child and various other gifts.
The Mid-town New Orleans District Office of Family Support donated a $100 gift card to a grandmother and her infant grandson. The grandson was removed from his home by DSS in April 2008, after his parents were killed during a home invasion. The baby now is in the custody of his grandmother, who formerly worked as part of the custodial staff at the Midtown New Orleans OFS office.
The Midtown New Orleans OFS staff also "adopted" Ferncrest Manor nursing home for Christmas. The staff purchased gifts for the residents of the long term care facility. Gifts included blankets, slippers, robes, gloves, hats, clothing, handkerchiefs, socks, toiletries and puzzles and games for the nursing home activity room.
The Algiers Office of Family Services staff provided toys and baby items to Early Childhood Support and Services, a group of parents, advocates, interested community members, public and private agencies who provide services to children ages 0-5 and their families. ECSS provides counseling services for the children who are at risk for developmental delays, behavioral, social or emotional problems.
The Monroe Foster Parent Association held a Christmas Party in December for foster children and families.
Plaquemines Parish OFS worked with Associated Grain Terminal to sponsor a Christmas Bike Giveaway. Representatives from Associated Grain Terminal were at the office in Belle Chasse on Friday, Dec. 19 to give 100 bicycles to children in the Plaquemines and St. Bernard communities.
Pointe Coupee Parish OFS partnered with the local Police Department's Christmas toy drive. They referred 16 families (39 children) for toys that were given out on Dec. 22 and 23.
Rapides Parish OFS held their 4th annual bake sale for the Central Louisiana Food Bank on December 10th to benefit the senior citizen program run by the local food bank. The bake sale raised $300, which will provide a food basket once a month for the next twelve months for three seniors in the area. They also do two bake sales each year; the next sale is schedule for February and will benefit the American Heart Association.
The Alexandria SES staff supported a family working through the Shepherd Center. This is the third year that they have provided toys and other donations for a family.
For the holiday season, St. Landry OFS is collecting canned goods and nonperishable items for the local food bank. This has become an annual project for them over the last few years. As requested by the food bank, their collection is delivered after the holidays to help replenish what has been given out for the Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday.
The agency also participated with the Food Net food drive assisting with collecting and sorting items as they were delivered. In addition, as another means of giving, a senior citizen of our community was 'adopted' by a unit in the office to receive a gift basket of clothing, food and personal items for Christmas.
The St. Landry Parish Kiwanis Club partnered with St. Landry Parish OCS to provide gifts for all foster children in the parish.
The St. Martin Parish OFS Staff partnered with the U.S. Marine Corps for Toys for Tots drive for the Christmas Season.
The St. Martin Parish Kiwanis Club sponsored a Christmas Party, in partnership with OCS, on Dec. 10 for all foster families in the parish at the Sterling Alexander Building.
Additionally, the Saint DeTours Church alter boys and Solidarity of Mary sponsor a needy tree which buys presents and the gifts are given to children receiving DSS services.
St. Mary OFS staff participated in the Food Net Drive Project this Christmas Season. This is a major food drive to replenish food stuffs for FOOD NET, a non-profit group that distributes food to families and food pantries.
In St. Mary Parish, The Acadiana Women’s League of New Iberia sponsored a Christmas Party for foster children at the West St. Mary Civic Center on December 18. Gifts were provided by Jim Firmin, a foster/adoptive parent.
Brave Heart - Children in Need, Inc. provided gifts for OCS children.
Through Abbeville Wal-Mart, the Vermilion Parish OFS has nominated 3 needy families for “adoption.” The office contacted the head of the household to receive the wish lists of the children. Wal-Mart employees collected donations and delivered gifts to each family’s home for Christmas.
Several Washington Parish organizations including Washington Parish 4-H, Annunciation Catholic Church School and individual donors provided Christmas gifts for children receiving DSS services.
Girl Scout Troop 1327 and Boy Scout Troop Sun City 203 in Webster Parish donated gifts for OCS children in Webster, Bienville, Claiborne and Jackson parishes.