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Spreading Christmas cheer for our city’s forgotten angels

3rd December 2012   ·   0 Comments

By Kelly Parker
Contributing Writer

While many of us are finishing up Thanksgiving leftovers, Ozanam Inn Administrator Clarence Adams is getting ready to dish up another holiday feast for some of the area’s needy children.

The 12th annual Forgotten Angels Christmas party takes place on Saturday, December 8; bringing together children and their parents from shelters and transitional housing to gather and enjoy entertainment, receive early Christmas presents and eat a tasty holiday meal cooked up by some of the area’s finest chefs. This year’s party takes place at the UNO Human Performance Center, from noon to 3p.m.

“We are planning on having a hot meal, a candy table, gifts for the kids, Santa, McGruff the crime dog, the Chic-Fil-A Cow, clowns, magicians, video games and more,” Adams says.

The children and their parents are picked up at local shelters and bused to and from the party.

The popular event was spearheaded by Adams, after witnessing numerous homeless children when he first visited Ozanam Inn for his job interview. The New Orleans native never thought about homeless children until he went to work for the Camp Street men’s shelter and kitchen back in 1994. He says he was haunted by the faces he saw.

Adams and two friends began asking for donations of new toys and new clothes. They lined up food and music and staged their first Christmas party. Adams called the children the Forgotten Angels, because he felt they were forgotten by society. “Now, that name seems sweetly ironic,” he says.

“The first year that we did the party, it was completely on our own time,” he adds. “After several nights of getting off from work at 5 p.m. and going to work on the party until late at night, I swore that I would not do that again, but after seeing the joy on the children’s faces, I knew that I would have to do this every year.”

Nearly 300 homeless children from throughout the metropolitan area are expected to attend this year’s event.

Though almost two decades has passed since he joined the staff, the issue of homeless children in the city remains evident; as Ozanam Inn join forces with organizations like UNITY of Greater New Orleans to combat the ongoing crisis.

“The UNITY homeless services collaborative including Ozanam Inn serves about 4,000 homeless children yearly,” says UNITY Executive Director Martha Kegel. “Homelessness takes a very heavy toll on children; it is an extremely traumatic event that can even negatively impact their emotional and intellectual development, research shows. Ozanam Inn’s Forgotten Angels event is a tremendously important event that everyone in the community should support because it demonstrates to children suffering homelessness that people care about them and that there can be hope, love and joy even in the midst of struggle.”

Adams has seen the support from the community increase as more organizations sign on to give back. Local hotels such as The Ritz-Carlton and various area Marriott hotels now serve as donation drop-off sites, providing boxes to collect items.

Unwrapped gifts of new toys and new clothes for babies through young teenagers can be brought to Ozanam Inn, at 843 Camp St. from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. through Dec. 7, or dropped off at any of the hotel drop-off sites.

Every year, as word spreads about the party, more people want to show they care about our neediest kids,” Adams told the Louisiana Weekly.

Last year, the Zulu Social Aid and Pleasure Club was one of many groups that took part in the activities; and for this year’s events, The Lance Moore Community Cares Foundation and the nonprofit “ Get Checked Or Check Out are also collecting toys for Adams’ forgotten angels.

Martha Kegel of UNITY for Greater New Orleans states that without this event, many homeless children in our community would not have any Christmas presents, heaping more pain upon the trauma they are already experiencing.

For more donation information, and a detailed list of hotel drop-off sites, contact Ozanam Inn at (504) 523-1184.

This article originally published in the December 3, 2012 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.

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