Nonprofits spread Christmas cheer during pandemic

Ed Wnorowski, executive director and chief executive officer of the St. Vincent de Paul Society, spoke to a client Dec. 13 during the society’s 19th annual Santa Shop held as a drive-through event on the SVDP campus, 1029 S. Preston St. (Record Photo by Ruby Thomas)

The manner in which the St. Vincent de Paul Society and Catholic Charities reached out to needy individuals this Christmas season looked a lot different than in years past, but not even a pandemic could stop the spread of cheer.

St. Vincent de Paul held its 19th annual Santa Shop as a drive-through event Dec. 13 on its campus at 1029 S. Preston Highway. More than 174 families, including close to 500 children, were served, said Donna Young, SVDP’s director of conference affairs and volunteer services. Each family received a Kroger gift card and a few toys donated by Toys for Tots. In previous years, the society’s Family Success Center was converted into a mini-mall, where families were invited to shop for toys and clothing for their children with the help of hundreds of volunteers, said Young.

Shaniece Conner, who serves as Sister Visitor Center’s office manager, loaded red sacks filled with toys, shoes and winter clothes into the trunk of a client’s car during a drive-through Christmas giveaway on Catholic Charities’ St. Anthony Campus, located on West Market and 22nd streets, Dec. 14. (Record Photo by Ruby Thomas)

Ed Wnorowski, SVDP’s executive director and chief executive officer, greeted families and handed out gifts as they sat in their cars, during the Dec. 13 event. Wnorowski said the experience this year was “flat” and nothing compared to years when he and volunteers spent time talking to clients and helping them select Christmas gifts for their children.

“We’d ask them about their children’s favorite toys and color,” said Wnorowski. A typical Santa Shop served 1,500 children, he noted. Thanks to the pandemic, they had to scale back this year, because of a lack of volunteers. And it wasn’t feasible to hold such a large-scale event via drive-through, he said.

Catholic Charities of Louisville also adapted its yearly Christmas giveaway. During the week of Dec. 13, clients served by several of its ministries received gifts, gift cards and clothing during drive-through events on the St. Anthony Campus located at West Market and 22nd streets.

More than 200 families, including 500 children were served. Among them were clients of the Sister Visitor Center, Office of Migration and Refugee Services, the Bakhita Empowerment Initiative (which serves survivors of trafficking) and Family Support Services.

Earlier in the year, Catholic Charities reached out to parish groups and individuals for donations to make the giveaway possible.

Donna Young, St. Vincent de Paul’s director of conference affairs and volunteer services, handed a bag of toys to Lolita Glover who walked by to pick up her gifts Dec. 13 during a drive-through giveaway on the SVDP campus, 1029 S. Preston St. (Record Photo by Ruby Thomas)

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