BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - This has, no doubt, been an incredibly surreal period in Baton Rouge's history during the past two weeks. We are all dealing with recent events in different ways.
We think the world should stop. We want to ask: Why are normal things still happening? Why are movies still being shown? Why are festivals still being scheduled? Doesn't the universe know what's just happened? Lives lost? Family's changed forever?
One thing I've learned throughout my life is that as unnatural as it seems, in the wake of tragedy, life must go on. Garbage will still be picked up twice a week. We still need to do laundry. Groceries must be purchased. Doctor appointments must be kept. Yes, we will laugh at movies again. Life goes on.
And to that end, a new school year will start in early August as it does each year. So, amidst the grief and confusion of these past two weeks, parents must begin to get their heads around school preparation - supplies, transportation, uniforms, etc. And for some, the St. Vincent de Paul's Uniforms for Kids program is a God-send each year.
"No doubt about it, our Uniforms for Kids effort is off to a slow start," Michael Acaldo with St. Vincent de Paul said. "This year, you know, our community has so much happening and our prayers go out to everyone that's affected. St. Vincent de Paul has been here in our community for 150 years. And one of the things we try to do is share love and the community."
"And I think Uniforms for Kids is a great expression of love. That's why we need people to respond. We need used uniforms, and anybody can donate used uniforms. Again, we're trying to help 10,000 children with over 20,000 uniforms," Acaldo, who is in his 27th year as head of St. Vincent de Paul, added.
Last year the Uniforms for Kids campaign raised well over $200,000. And while most of the uniforms are distributed during July prior to the August start of the new school year, St. Vincent de Paul said it keeps an inventory of uniforms available year-round to assist with loss due to fire and other mid-year needs. Cost of one uniform, including one top and one bottom, is only $12, and St. Vincent de Paul tries to always give two uniforms per child - one to wash, one to wear.
"Not everybody can give $300. But you can give $12. You can give $1. It doesn't matter. People that even got help made contributions last year, some as small as a dollar. Every contribution helps. And every contribution makes a difference," Acaldo explained.
We surprised Michael with a visit to the St. Vincent de Paul's Uniforms for Kids distribution center on Plank Road. He thought we were there to do a story about this year's Uniform for Kids effort. But we showed up with our Hand It On cameras!
"Since we're off to a slow start," I said approaching Acaldo. "We have a Hand It On gift of $300. I can't do the math in my head Michael. How many uniforms will this buy?"
"That is awesome! It's close to about 25 or 26 uniforms. This is our 19th annual drive and it is an expression of love for the community. When we come together as a community, it tells every child we help that we love them. Somebody you don't even know cares about you. Thank you and WAFB for all you do for this great community effort," Acaldo said while showing a huge smile on his face.
New or slightly used uniforms can be dropped off at any St. Vincent de Paul location in Baton Rouge and here at WAFB-TV Channel 9 on Government Street downtown. You may also make tax deductible financial donations through St. Vincent de Paul's secure online portal at their website: svdpbr.com. Or if you'd like to mail your donation, send a check or money order to St. Vincent de Paul, P.O. Box 127, Baton Rouge, LA 70821. Mark your envelope "Uniforms For Kids."
Yes, life does go on. Yes, school will begin next month. And we can start the healing by giving to the Uniforms for Kids effort through St. Vincent de Paul.