Where there is generosity, there is warmth.
The maxim rang true Tuesday for hundreds of senior citizens served by the St. Mary Parish Council on Aging, which began distributing more than 700 donated blankets to home-bound residents after a weeks-long drive.
“Oh, we are gonna have some people who are gonna be so excited!” said Beverly Domengeaux, the council’s 80-year-old executive director for more than a decade. “Everybody in St. Mary Parish has really pitched in.”
Domengeaux, along with her five-member staff, 11-member board and their spouses, distributed 250 of the new, used and handmade blankets Tuesday. Another 250 are set for dispersal Monday, and the remaining 200 — a number above the council’s 500-blanket goal — will be stowed for future donations, Domengeaux said.
Thibodaux resident Jackie Boudreaux, 67, said she spends her free time crocheting at home while watching TV. She made the 30-mile trip to Berwick to see relatives and to donate six of her handmade afghans toward the drive.
“I saw an ad and said, ‘Well, that would be nice,’ ” Boudreaux recalled. “So I made the trip.”
The St. Mary Parish Sheriff’s Office led the drive and took in 206 blankets on its own. It also took in two pallets of used blankets from G&J Land and Marine Food Distributors Inc. and 10 new blankets from Walgreens.
“The community outdid itself in giving and donation,” Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Traci Landry said.
Donations are especially important for the Council on Aging’s success, as federal and state funding cuts have forced Domengeaux to cut corners for her operation, she said. The council functions on an annual budget of about $519,000 and relies largely on grants and private donations to continue caring for the elderly.
“They feel like they’re the forgotten people,” Domengeaux said. “But we’ve got to remember that if it wasn’t for them, none of us would be here.”
In addition to the year-round serving of just over 200 hot meals daily to home-bound seniors in the parish, Domengeaux said, the council also delivered close to 500 nonperishable food baskets this month ahead of Christmas. She expects to deliver another 500 by New Year’s Day.
“We think this is one of the best years that we’ve ever had, and I know it’s one of the happiest holiday seasons that a lot of our seniors have had,” Domengeaux said.
More than 10,600 St. Mary Parish residents are older than 60, and 80 percent of them live alone, Domengeaux said. And the parish’s elderly population is growing as quickly as its youth population dwindles.
“That leaves a lot of seniors here without any family,” Domengeaux said.
To fill the void, the council distributes food like small cereal boxes, snack foods and microwavable dinners, which makes cooking and eating easier for aging residents who are hesitant to surrender their independence. Drivers are also available to bring them around town, whether for doctor’s visits, shopping trips or dining out.
“They’re proud people. They don’t want to ask for any help,” Domengeaux said. “But we try to treat them very special.”
Follow Lanie Lee Cook on Twitter, @lanieleecook, or contact her by phone at (337) 534-0825.