A Covington Christmas tradition

It has become one of those traditions I love best: Getting up early on Christmas morning, driving to St. Paul’s School in Covington and picking up boxes of turkey dinners with all the trimmings to deliver to families who might not otherwise have a Christmas feast, complete with leftovers.

It seems like a nice way to celebrate the season of giving, now, doesn’t it?

Hundreds of people do the same thing every year, thanks to the Covington Rotary Club, which has been sponsoring the Feeding the Needy program since 2002.

Since its beginnings, when it fed 300, the program has grown in numbers and in scope. In 2011, Feeding the Needy provided 1,300 boxes of food to families in Covington and across St. Tammany and Washington parishes.

This year, the program will feed even more.

“We have about 1,500 boxes to prepare this year,” said John Baldwin, who helped start Feeding the Needy. “The goal is to deliver one package for every four people to be fed. It’s very important to maintain that ratio so we can feed people for more than one day.”

Baldwin said the Rotary Club wants families to have enough food so that children have nutritious meals over the holidays when school cafeterias are closed.

The larger number of boxes means there is a need for more donations and more volunteers, but Baldwin is confident it will work out as it always does.

“We operate on blind faith and it always comes together,” he said. “We never thought we could do more than 1,000, but our volunteers are brilliant. We are blessed to live in such a generous community.”

The Rotary Club needs help with more than Christmas Day deliveries. In fact, volunteers are needed now through Dec. 21 to work at the call center, screening calls from people in need of boxes.

“We’d like to get people to sign up in advance to volunteer,” said Elizabeth Van Sant, immediate past president of the Rotary Club. “We have an electronic database and we are trying to get people to go there to select volunteer opportunities.”

If you are interested in working at the call center, or in any capacity, visit http://www.covrotary.org and click on “volunteer here” under Feeding the Needy.

Other volunteer opportunities include preparing food boxes in the St. Paul’s cafeteria Dec. 23 and 24 and delivering meals on Christmas Day.

“It’s a perfect way to start Christmas Day,” Baldwin said of the deliveries — but you need to get to St. Paul’s early. “Usually, by 8:30 a.m. everything is gone.”

St. Paul’s is at 917 S. Jahncke Ave. in Covington.

Although you can sign up to volunteer for any part of Feeding the Needy online, those who fail to sign up can still lend a hand.

“No one will be turned away,” Van Sant said. The most important task for online signup is the call center, Baldwin added.

In addition to volunteering, you can also make a monetary contribution.

Donations are accepted year-round and checks can be made out to The Covington Rotary Foundation and mailed to Box 541 Covington, LA 70433.

For more information, call John Baldwin at (985) 892-2203. If you know of anyone truly in need of a food box, the call center can be reached at (985) 276-9718.

Project Christmas

Another vital holiday program in St. Tammany is Project Christmas, which delivers Christmas joy to hundreds of families in St. Tammany Parish.

Distribution day is Saturday. If you would like more information on how you can help, call (985) 259-5770 or visit http://www.stprojectchristmas.org/.

Karen Baker writes about St. Tammany Parish. Contact her at sliceoftammany@gmail.com.