On Friday, we had gumbo (Pack the Pantry) and Saturday, chili (Code Red) — good thing it was cold out. Two events for two great causes — feeding the hungry and cancer treatment services in the Zachary community.

Both events included people giving and volunteering, fun and togetherness, characteristics that define this community.

Another thing that struck me about this week was Zachary football players wearing the initials “J.B.” on the back of their helmets during Friday’s win over Airline.

The initials, for Jerry Boudreaux, are in honor of the 25-year Zachary High School principal, coach, beloved father and friend. Just another reason this town is so awesome.

In the meantime, around Zachary …

Operation Christmas Child

Churches, families, residents and organizations in and around Zachary have been working to make Christmas a reality for kids in need by filling shoeboxes with toys, school supplies, hygiene items and notes of encouragement.

Operation Christmas Child has moved into high gear as volunteers work to collect 12,000 gift-filled shoeboxes during National Collection Week, Nov. 17-24.

At First Baptist Church, anyone can drop off a gift-filled shoebox to send to a child overseas. Using whatever means necessary, the shoebox gifts will be hand-delivered to children worldwide. For many, this will be the first gift they have ever received, according to Operation Christmas Child.

Follow boxes online and track the country where your shoeboxes will be delivered. To register, use the online donation form at samaritanspurse.org.

The Zachary collection site for Operation Christmas Child is First Baptist Church, 4200 Main St. Remaining collection times are:

Thursday: 2 p.m. to 5 p.m.

Friday: 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.

Saturday: 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.

Sunday: 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.

Monday: 9 a.m. to 10:30 a.m.

A full list of collection site locations can be found online.

Baker Town Hall meeting

The Baker City Council will host a town hall meeting at 6:30 p.m. Nov. 20 to discuss an increase in utility fees. Residents are urged to attend this meeting at the Baker Municipal Center Auditorium, 3325 Groom Road, Baker.

Health care seminar

The Baker-Zachary Alumnae chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority is hosting a free, affordable health care seminar beginning at 11 a.m. Saturday at the Martin Luther King Catholic student center on Southern’s campus.

The session will provide personal assistance and explain the health insurance marketplace, define who is eligible, list ways to lower insurance costs, help with the enrollment process and explain who qualifies for Medicaid and LaCHIP.

The seminar will be presented by the Omni Insurance group. For information, email Vennetta Hayes at violetvennetta@yahoo.com.

Free health screenings

Residents in the Zachary area are invited to attend Family Health Day beginning at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday at Americana’s YMCA, 4200 Liberty Way, to receive free health screenings and learn more about making better health choices this holiday season.

Louisiana Cardiology Association will provide the free health screenings to check blood pressure and body mass index (BMI), which are key indicators of an individual’s risk for serious illness.

Knowing these numbers can help an individual make changes to improve his or her overall health and reduce the risk of developing heart disease, diabetes or other illnesses, LCA said.

Dr. Vicki Munson, of Our Lady of the Lake Physician Group-Zachary Clinic, will be on hand to provide helpful tips to avoid unhealthy pitfalls of the holiday season.

Family Health Day is an event for the entire family and will include fun activities for children.

For information, call (225) 654-9622.

Benefit for Belle

The Crushing Cancer Benefit for Belle blood drive will be held from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. Nov. 29 at St. Patrick’s Episcopal Church, 1322 Church St., Zachary, for Frannie “Belle” Ballard, who has been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.

LifeShare Blood Centers will be on site with multiple beds for quick and easy donations.

Jambalaya dinners will be sold for $7 per plate as well as baked goods, drinks and possibly hot chocolate, depending on the weather.

Raffle tickets for an online auction will be available the same day for $2 each. The auction will be from Nov. 23-30 and held in conjunction with the blood drive.

Prizes valued at $10, $25 or $50 are needed for the raffle/online auction, and may include items such as gift cards, candles, T-shirts, gym passes, manicures and pedicures, art, home decorative items, clothing and more.

To learn more, visit Crushing Cancer Benefit Tournament on Facebook or contact Shannon Woodside at (225) 270-2721.

Pre-orders for the jambalaya dinners are urged and can be emailed to shannon woodside@gmail.com.

Teddy bear blood drive

The city of Zachary is giving back by hosting a blood drive from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Dec. 8 at the Zachary Fire Department, 4525 Main St.

For every person who donates blood, a teddy bear will be donated to a child at St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital during Christmas. All blood donated stays in the community and goes to Lane Regional Medical Center.

United Blood Services will have its bloodmobile parked at the fire department, where donors will receive a free total cholesterol test and gift.

Donors can sign up online at bloodhero.com and enter the sponsor code FBCOC.

To complete a health history the same day you donate blood, visit unitedblood services.org and click on the “Health History” button on the left side of the home page.

Donors must bring a photo ID and donor card.