BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Two communities in the Baton Rouge area came together Thursday evening to celebrate the spirit of the season in the aftermath of August's historic flood.
In Denham Springs, where people are still working to get back in their homes, a few dozen soldiers from Fort Polk in Western Louisiana distributed more than 1,300 toys to kids."We want to really make a Christmas for some children that may not get a Christmas this year. We want to make sure they at least get something," said Cpl. Bobbi Jamerson.
Aimee Ryals brought her two kids to pick out toys as part of an effort to give them a normal Christmas. Her home is still under construction. "We have a piece of foam board with construction paper Christmas tree, because it has to be moveable," said Aimee Ryals, who brought her two kids to pick out toys.
The toys were donated by people in the Fort Polk community, as well folks at the Jesuit School in New Orleans.
"It really warms my heart and I'm sure it does to every soldier here. Because they volunteered to come today, we didn't force them, we didn't tell them to… it means a lot to us," Jamerson said.
For parents, the greatest gift was not the board games or dolls, but the glow in their children's eyes. It was, for them, a chance to escape from the grim reality of the storm's aftermath.
"It's been a tight year, so anything that can put a smile on their face is pretty awesome," said Kelli Cohan, a parent in Denham Springs. "It just reminds you that there is good in the world," Ryals said.
Meanwhile in East Baton Rouge Parish, more than 100 flood victims packed into the Baker Auditorium Thursday evening for a Christmas celebration.
They watched Christmas movies, listened to a comedian, and shared a meal. Santa Claus was on hand, as well.
Doris Alexander helped organize the event with the help of BREC, the Pilot Club, and other groups from Baker.
"Everything we went through this year, we came up on the other side together and we're strong," Alexander said. "This is what Christmas is all about, and this is what living in the community is all about. It's about giving. And it makes me feel so good."