Need grows for charity amid COVID pandemic and the holidays
BATON ROUGE - The line of people at St. Vincent de Paul for Christmas lunch Friday was one of the longest, and there's a concern that the need seen recently will increase into the new year.
"This is what the lonely do at Christmas - the homeless - what ever you want to call it," Joseph Grifiin said as he waited for a meal Christmas Day.
Friday was Griffin's first time having Christmas dinner at the charity. He's been out of work for eight months, laid off when the COVID pandemic first hit Louisiana.
"It's going to lot more than me, because everybody is just a pay check away from being right hear in this line," Griffin said.
In addition to longer lines - presumably because of the health crisis - COVID also forced organizers to change yet another holiday meal program: No dining inside, meals to go and social distancing everywhere. Only 15 volunteers were allowed Friday,down from 150 last year.
"I'm very worried... very worried about what we have in store for 2021," Michael Acaldo, St, Vincent de Paul CEO, said.
Acaldo said as the need grows, donations have slowed since the pandemic.
"In my 31 years at St. Vincent de Paul, I've never seen so much need. I think it's going to continue through the course of the next year," he said.
Griffin, despite being out of work, was not without holiday spirit Friday. He said being at the dinner with so many others was helpful.
"To come together with people walking the same walk with you, [it] gives me a big up lifting and all I can say is 'Merry Christmas' to everybody," Griffin said.
The charity served at least 500 meals Friday, a slight increase from Christmas 2019.
Children who took home a plate of food were given a bag of toys from WBRZ anchor Sylvia Weatherspoon's annual toy drive.
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