Written by Terri Ogan
‘Tis the season for Southie to donate. South Boston charitable programs are reaching out to residents in an effort to help those in need during the upcoming Thanksgiving and winter holidays.
With the holiday season just around the corner, the Catholic Charities Laboure Center has kicked off its Friends Feeding Family program, a Thanksgiving charity initiative that aims to provide food for families that can’t afford it themselves.
The Laboure Center is a multi-faceted agency that provides services such as childcare, teen mentoring programs, training program for nursing assistant, immigration assistance programs and immediate emergency care programs.
The organization, which assists about 3,000 poverty-stricken individuals per year, will be collecting and distributing grocery store gift cards through Thursday Nov. 21.
Laboure volunteer Julie Galgay said the reason why the organization collects gift cards is in order to enable families and individuals to buy food themselves, which Galgay said is a gift in itself.
“There is a certain amount of dignity in buying food and preparing your own meal for Thanksgiving,” Galgay said. “It’s a neat part for them to be able to buy food for their families. That’s what the holiday is about.”
According to the organization, 650 residents that have received assistance from the center were without food during Thanksgiving and Christmas last year.
Galgay said Laboure is aiming to feed between 175 to 200 families during the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday.
Lovated at 275 West Broadway St., the organization is welcoming grocery store gift cards of any price, but is aiming for donations of $25 denominations.
“It’s an eye-opening thing to see for people who are struggling so much,” Galgay said. “That’s why it’s such a daunting thing to do. The hope is to give all of these people what they need.”
In addition to the Laboure Center’s holiday-helping initiative, the South Boston Neighborhood House is launching its Holiday Helper Program.
This program aims to help parents that cannot provide gifts for their children during the holidays, and typical items on a day-to-day basis, as well as individuals struggling to survive.
The multi-service agency, located at 136 H St., has a preschool program, senior services and parenting classes, among several other services.
The South Boston Neighborhood House receives few food donations during Thanksgiving, but has a “huge” Christmas program, which has grown drastically over the last eight years, according to Chief Operating Officer Kathy Lafferty.
“More families know about what we’re doing so they’ve come to us for help, and more corporate partners have jumped on board and want to participate by sponsoring families and individuals,” Lafferty said.
With the Holiday Helper Program, various sponsors are connected with individuals or families to provide them with gifts for the holidays.
In order for the program to work, families fill out a holiday helper form, which entails a few sentences about their family or individual situation, their clothing size and a short wish list of gifts they’d like for the holiday.
The families are then paired with a sponsor who will fulfill that wish list. The families, individuals and sponsors never meet in person in order to maintain confidentiality.
Poverty has always been an issue in the area, Lafferty said, but this year the organization is seeing a spike in middle-class parents that have been recently laid off and struggling to make ends meet.
Despite the difficulty in seeing others battle poverty, Lafferty said it’s gratifying to know people are willing to help.
“I’m really proud of our neighborhood,” Lafferty said. “I’m proud of the fact that people come to us and say, ‘What can I do how can I help?’ We’re so surprised and overwhelmed by people’s generosity.
Lafferty added that clients pay it forward by returning to the agency to lend a hand after receiving help from others.
For those that cannot sponsor an entire family, the South Boston organization will be having weekly-themed donations, including pajama week, toiletry week, and more.
The themes will be posted on the South Boston Neighborhood House Facebook page starting the week of Thanksgiving (Monday Nov. 25) and ending on Christmas (Wednesday Dec. 25).
If you would like to donate a gift card to the Laboure Thanksgiving drive – you can drop them off to the Laboure Center at 275 West Broadway or contact Julie Galgay for pick up at [email protected]
To donate to the South Boston Neighborhood House Holiday Helper program contact Kathy Lafferty at 617-268-1619 x201 or [email protected]