By Jessica Able, Record Staff Writer
Three sport utility vehicles full of clothing, toiletries and toys pulled into the back drive of the Sister Visitor Center last week.
The drivers of those vehicles were parishioners of St. Bernadette Church in Prospect, Ky. And, the toys and clothing items were collected for clients served by the Sister Visitor Center on West Market Street.
Jenny State, who organizes St. Bernadette’s Christmas outreach program, noted the parish has assisted the Sister Visitor Center for at least a dozen years.
“St. Bernadette is a large parish, a blessed parish and a very giving parish,” State said. “It’s part of our Christmas tradition at this point.”
State said about 80 parishioners volunteer in various ways in an effort to bring Christmas cheer to hundreds of children. Parishioners not only donate toys but also give blankets, sheets, pillows, toiletries, clothing for children and adults, shoes, diapers, toilet paper and other toiletries.
In addition to the Sister Visitor Center, St. Bernadette parish also provides Christmas gifts to a refugee family, Eastern Area Christian Ministries, Westport Group Home, the Teenage Parent Program and Atkinson Elementary School.
About a dozen parishes aid Sister Visitor’s outreach efforts to its clients in the Portland, Shawnee and Russell neighborhoods in West Louisville, said Sister Michele Intravia, director of the Sister Visitor Center.
The emergency assistance program provided Christmas presents to 250 children from 175 families earlier this week. Families were also able to select new clothing items, including coats, hats, gloves, socks, underwear and towels. Toys for Tots also donated new toys and 50 bicycles.
In addition, another 11 families who were identified to be the most in need were sponsored by businesses and families, Sister Intravia said. These families received toys, clothing, household items and a full Christmas meal.
Parishioners of St. Patrick Church in Crestwood, Ky., also donate to the Sister Visitor Center in a big way. This is the third year St. Patrick has provided Christmas gifts for the Sister Visitor Center, said Therese Reid, one of the organizers of the parish Christmas outreach program.
“It has become who we are and what we do. We come together as the family of God and give the blessings we have been given to others in the community,” Reid said.
Sister Intravia, who is an Ursuline Sister of Mount St. Joseph, said it would not be possible to support their clients at Christmas without the support of parishes in the Archdiocese of Louisville.
“If we were not supported by parishes through monetary donations and toys, clothing, personal hygiene items and through volunteer hours, we could never do this. We are very grateful,” Sister Intravia said.
The Society of St. Vincent de Paul held its annual Santa Shop Dec. 10 at its Family Success Center, 1029 S. Preston St. The annual Christmas toy and clothing giveaway provides parents in need the opportunity to select Christmas presents for their children.
Families who participate are referred by parish St. Vincent de Paul conferences, the Catholic Education Foundation, the Schuhmann Center and other organizations, said Donna Young, director of conference affairs and volunteer services at St. Vincent de Paul.
This year, 465 families shopped for 1,078 children. Parents were able to pick out toys, games, books, pajamas, outfits, coats and stocking stuffers.
Gifts are provided by parishes, conferences, schools, local businesses and individuals, Young said.
In addition to the Santa Shop, the Society of St. Vincent de Paul provides a ham to families who attend the Santa Shop. Residents who stay at the Ozanam Inn, which provides emergency shelter and transitional housing for men, receive a backpack on Christmas Eve filled with toiletries, socks, gloves, hat, thermal underwear and snacks.
Young said the need for assistance by the clients they serve continues to rise, particularly this time of the year.
“Every year we see an increase in the number of calls for help, especially during the holidays,” she said.