Thanksgiving baskets given to 160 families in need
By Brooke Robichaux Email the author Published 12:00 am Wednesday, November 25, 2020 From the L'Observateur LaPlace, LA ST ROSE — Over the past six years, GSmith Motorsports has donated more than 900 Thanksgiving baskets to community members in need across the tri-parish area. Saturday, Nov. 21 was no exception as volunteers made stops at the St. James Parish Sheriff’s Office in Vacherie, St. Joan of Arc Catholic Church in LaPlace and Sacred Heart of Jesus Catholic Church in Norco to spread Thanksgiving cheer. Each of the three sites nominated at least 50 individuals who needed a little extra support this holiday season. All of the traditional fixings were packed into insulated bags and packaged at the GSmith Motorsports facility in St. Rose. Recipients were treated to cranberry sauce, dirty rice, mac and cheese, dinner rolls and a case of tea, as well as ingredients needed to cook a green bean casserole, a sweet potato casserole and a cake for dessert. Each Thanksgiving basket also included a $20 Walmart gift card that recipients may use to purchase a turkey or a ham. Organizer Leigh Hallas said Winn-Dixie of Destrehan has been a great community partner integral to the success of the annual Thanksgiving event. Invitations were sent to the nominees in each parish. According to Hallas, some faces are familiar year to year, and some are not. No matter who shows up to receive the baskets, there is always an air of gratitude. “It’s always a little heart wrenching when you see the children there. We’ve seen little kids that are just so sweet,” Hallas said. “They’ll come and carry the bags to the cars, and they’re just so grateful.” Sometimes a person on the list will not be able to make it in person, and volunteers from the site will make a home delivery. Food leftovers in past years have always been put to good use, whether they are given to firefighters or other families in need. Community needs have been heightened in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. This year’s giveaway went smoothly and was not so different from Thanksgiving events in the past, save for the addition of facial coverings. “The way it works out when they come to pick up the baskets, we never have a massive crowd,” Hallas said. “Typically in St. James, the bags are brought to the individual’s vehicle. The crowd control is pretty easy.” Volunteers help ensure the giveaway runs smoothly year after year. Susan Messer has volunteered with the GSmith Thanksgiving giveaway for the past six years, and she said it is always rewarding to help someone in need. “When we do this, it’s so heart warming to give it out to the people who need it,” Messer said. “When you go to the churches and wait for the people to come, it gives you such a great feeling to deliver it. It touches your heart.” Messer has seen familiar faces at some sites, and it made her realize that you never really know what challenges another person is facing behind closed doors. Even the strongest people could be in need of help, especially during the holiday season. “It opens up your eyes. You never know how everyone is getting by during the holidays,” Messer said. “The pandemic has affected everybody, but there are some who are not as fortunate as others. Some people had their life come to a complete stop.” GSmith Motorsports also participates in annual Christmas giveaways for families and gives back to children in area hospitals. Earlier this year, the GSmith family honored first responders and healthcare heroes. For more information, please visit gsmithmotorsports.com.