The 24th annual Children’s Hospital toy drive gets under way Thursday and continues until Dec. 10.

“The last several years our toy drive has been supported by various schools, churches and small businesses,” said organizer Alex Fisher Jr. “This year, the goal is to bring aboard larger businesses, organizations and schools.”

The toys will be collected on Dec. 10, and volunteers are needed.

“We not only need help collecting the toys, we also need individuals and groups to help sort and box the toys, which we will do from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Dec. 10 at the Knights of Columbus Hall, 475 Franklin St. in Gretna,” Fisher said.

The toys will be delivered to Children’s Hospital on Dec. 12.

To donate, volunteer or for information, call Fisher at (504) 367-4743 or Jack Dunphy at (504) 481-2486.

Kenner Christmas Village opens

An annual holiday tradition kicks off in Kenner this weekend when the Christmas Village opens at 5:30 p.m. Saturday in Heritage Park, 405 Williams Blvd. in Rivertown.

Kenner Mayor Mike Yenni and Santa Claus will turn on the lights. Soon, “snow” will fall, turning the village into a winter wonderland. Animated scenery, Christmas caroling, entertainment by local school students and dance schools, and costumed holiday characters will be accompianed by arts and crafts, food and refreshments.

The village will be open Sunday along with the first three weekends in December — Dec. 4-6, Dec. 11-13, and Dec. 18-20. Hours are 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Santa will be available for photos.

Parking and admission are free.

Adding to the holiday spirit will be a special musical light show called “Laser Holidays” beginning at 7 p.m. on Dec. 4, Dec. 11 and Dec. 18 at the Kenner Planetarium and MegaDome Cinema, 2020 Fourth St., Rivertown.

Tickets to the light show, which are $2, can be purchased at the planetarium box office.

For information about the Christmas Village and the light show, call (504) 468-7231.

Parish receives special grant

The Jefferson Parish Department of Environmental Affairs, a Keep America Beautiful affiliate, has won a $2,500 grant from Keep America Beautiful’s Cigarette Litter Prevention Program.

In an email, Kriss Fortunato, public information officer for the parish, said the grant money has allowed the parish to buy receptacles for cigarette butts and to fund a public awareness campaign. These receptacles have been placed at the pavilion areas at the Bucktown Marina and the Bonnabel Boat Launch to reduce litter on the ground and ultimately, in Lake Pontchartrain.

“Preliminary scans of a 10-foot-by-10-foot section at each site, conducted as a prerequisite for grant funding, found more than 650 cigarette butts littered the grounds at those two areas alone,” Fortunato added.

The grant, along with the donation of 1,500 pocket ash trays from Keep America Beautiful, will allow the parish to continue its fight against litter and expand efforts to keep Jefferson “Clean and Green.”

“The litter program of Keep America Beautiful addresses the problem by encouraging enforcement of litter laws, raising awareness with public service messages, placing cigarette litter receptacles in public places and distributing pocket ashtrays to adult smokers,” Fortunato said. “Communities implementing the Cigarette Litter Prevention Program consistently cut cigarette butt litter by half.”

Also, through its partnership with Keep Louisiana Beautiful, the parish’s department of Environmental Affairs has been awarded an $8,700 Healthy Communities Grant to buy recycling bins to support a new recycling and waste reduction program initiated by the faculty and students of Grace King High School’s Environmental Club in Metairie.

Keep Louisiana Beautiful is the state’s anti-litter and community improvement organization focused on education, awareness, litter prevention, beautification and waste reduction.

The grant will give students an opportunity to take an active role in environmental issues and integrate recycling into the school curriculum and practice.

AARP class is next week

A four-hour AARP Smart Driver class will be held from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Wednesday at the Elmwood Fitness Center, 1200 S. Clearview Parkway, Harahan.

The class is open to all AARP members and non-members age 50 and older; those completing the course will receive a certificate that may qualify them for car insurance discounts. The cost is $15 for AARP members and $20 for non-members.

To register and for more information, call (504) 828-3962.

Eva Jacob Barkoff writes about the people and events in Jefferson Parish. She can be reached at ejbarkoff@gmail.com