Members of the Healing Place Church's Outreach Program and Parole Project distributing gifts at Joseph Homes

The Gift of Giving

Parole Project Reentry Specialist Christi Cheramie is always seeking opportunities for clients to give back to the community through volunteerism.  When Insa Becnel of Healing Place Church’s Outreach Program contacted her about providing Christmas gifts for the formerly incarcerated, Cheramie immediately saw a chance to for Parole Project clients to give as well as receive. “I’ve had several conversations with (clients) lately where they asked if I knew of a way they could get involved in volunteering or community service,” Christi said. “It’s been difficult connecting them to those opportunities with COVID going on and it’s a shame because I think being involved in community service is especially important for people who have benefitted from the charity and generosity of others.” When Becnel called about help distributing the gifts, Christi knew exactly who to enlist for the project.

A week later Cheramie, Parole Project Resident Coordinator Gerald Parker, along with several clients who were eager to volunteer, met with Becnel and and fellow Healing Place member Terry Jones. Sandra Starr, Theodes Perow, David Johnson, Fair Bryant, Beatrice Taylor and Eugene Cossich, joined the other Christmas elves at Joseph Homes, the distribution point. The gift bags, each with a handwritten, personalized card inside, where specially prepared for the formerly incarcerated. The group enthusiastically knocked on the doors of the complex and handed out the gift bags which were filled with warm blankets, candy and snacks, and other stocking stuffers, before heading to Redemption Homes to make Christmas a little brighter for our resident clients.

Cheramie says it was a special holiday experience for everyone involved. “You could really feel the gratitude from our clients and all the residents at Joseph Homes.”  While some of the residents receiving gifts that morning no longer had living relatives to celebrate Christmas with, others cancelled plans they made to go home for the holiday due to COVID-19 or a lack of transportation.  For them the event was especially heart-warming.  Cheramie emphasized how important it is for people to know that others truly care for them and they belong to a larger community that values them. “I think what everyone enjoyed most was being able to join together with others in the courtyard that morning in the spirit of fellowship and good will. They were part of something special.”

Photo caption: Terry Jones (far left) and Insa Becnel (center) from the Healing Place Church’s Outreach Program, along with Gerald Parker, Parole Project client Sandra Starr and Christi Cheramie, briefly remove their masks to smile for the camera before distributing gifts at Joseph Homes, an apartment complex for the formerly incarcerated run by Catholic Charities of Baton Rouge