By Marnie McAllister, Record Assistant Editor
Nearly 2,000 children will have toys to open on Christmas morning thanks to the efforts of hundreds of volunteers and donors who have assisted Catholic Charities’ Sister Visitor Center and the Society of St. Vincent de Paul.
The two Catholic charities collected thousands of gifts to give away this season from local parishes, businesses and individuals.
At the Sister Visitor Center this week, more than 200 impoverished families — with more than 1,000 children — from the Russell, Portland and Shawnee neighborhoods in West Louisville are picking up sackfuls of gifts. That number is expected to grow as more families sign up with the charity.
“They are so appreciative,” said Sister Michele Intravia, an Ursuline Sister of Mount St. Joseph who directs the Sister Visitor Center at 2235 W. Market. “People say they feel so blessed to come to us. And that’s the real meaning of Christmas — to come closer to God. It gives you a sense of hope,” she said.
Hopefulness and cheer were apparent on Dec. 15, as two dozen Sister Visitor volunteers prepared the sacks of toys and other gifts for families.
About 100 people from local parishes and businesses volunteered throughout the week, Sister Intravia said. They used Christmas wish lists submitted by families to fill black plastic bags with two toys per child, stuffed animals, books, crayons, hats and gloves. Each family also received a blanket and a set of towels. And each family member received three new pairs of socks and underwear.
In January, these families will return to pick out new clothing and coats that were donated to the center, Sister Intravia said.
The donated items came primarily from half a dozen parishes in Louisville, she added, noting that other donations came from a handful of local businesses and families.
“I cannot say enough for the parishes in the archdiocese and our volunteers,” Sister Intravia said. “We could never pull something like this off without them.”
In addition to those helping this week, Sister Intravia said five Catholic school principals helped sort gifts last week.
And she said that a new group for boys and their fathers at St. Margaret Mary Church will be pitching in, too. The boys’ and men’s group plans to take gifts and Christmas dinners to three families that reside outside of Sister Visitor’s service area, she said. They will make their deliveries on Christmas Eve.
The Society of St. Vincent de Paul’s (SVDP) annual Santa Shop expects to help 330 families this year — and a total of 850 children.
On Dec. 21, parents will be able to shop for their children among the donated gifts at the society’s new Family Success Center, 1029 S. Preston St. The families receiving gifts include those referred to the society by parish SVDP conferences around the area, refugees resettled by Catholic Charities and families served by the Volunteers of America and the Boys and Girls Clubs of Kentuckiana.
During the giveaway next Sunday, the society expects to have from 100 to 150 volunteers on hand to help.
The Society of St. Vincent de Paul also expects to give Christmas dinner baskets to about 328 clients.