BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD) — Community members have been stepping up this year after economic struggles and social unrest to make this year Christmas for locals and those resettling here.

“With COVID, there were a lot of gift cards involved,” stated St. George Catholic Church Social Responsibility Coordinator, Kristel Neupert. “So we’re excited to get back to actual shopping and bringing back the real gifts.”

Two weeks before Christmas and the spirit of giving is helping local families through the holiday season.

“We’re able to offer the community a way to give back, but also bring joy in the hope of Christmas to our clients that are in need,” said Catholic Charities Refugee and Immigration Services Director Lisa Lee.

Lee said many of these families left their war-torn country in a hurry and came to Louisiana with nothing.

“When they arrive off the plane in Baton Rouge, they have maybe a suitcase or a backpack with some clothes, and important documents. Most of them are fleeing some type of violence or some type of persecution in their country,” she said.

That’s where Kristel Neupert and Leslie Denham stepped in with their Angel tree, providing about a thousand gifts for refugees along with local families.

“During the Advent season, we put the trees up in the North and we put little ornaments on them and each ornament has a different color for the agency. We help with the gift suggestion request on the back of the ornament,” explained Neupert.

“It’s an exciting little time because after mass, they all go to the tree and pick up an angel, and it’s just that better than going online and looking at a list. So it gives them that connection,” added St. George Catholic Volunteer Leslie Denham.

Lee said this will provide donations for 600 local families and about 100 refugees who may need items to help resettle.

“They collect things like household items, pots and pans, bed linens, and towels,” she stated.

The Catholic Charities’ Sponsor a Family Program is a little bit more of a mix. They have some fun items for the children, but they also have clothing needs,” added Neupert.

Most of the gifts will be given out ahead of the holiday.

“This ministry really means a lot to a lot of people,” said Neupert.

There are still families who have not been sponsored yet.

Click here to help make someone’s Christmas special by donating, volunteering, or sponsoring a family with cash for gift cards.