Two groups of people whose interactions can sometimes be contentious came together morning in a spirit of caring, gratitude, and mutual respect. LSU Health New Orleans University Police distributed holiday gift bags to people experiencing homelessness.
“Our dealings can be perceived as negative at times, and we wanted a more positive encounter,” said Lt. Natasha Taylor of LSU Health University Police. “As we carry out our duty to protect our students and secure our campus, we do understand their circumstances.”
Lt. Taylor organized a donation drive to buy necessities and niceties to fill the bags. University police officers, along with LSU Health New Orleans leadership, contributed.
Taylor put together 48 large bags, which contained socks, Kleenex, hand warmers, protein bars, toothbrushes and toothpaste, dental floss, towels, deodorant, Chap Stick, combs, and healing hand lotion.
Thirty smaller bags included either a towel or socks, a toothbrush, toothpaste, floss, and one or two other items.
Fifteen bags for women also contained feminine hygiene products.
All were given out, and all were appreciated. A chorus of “thank yous” and “God bless yous” could be heard as Lt. Taylor, Sgt. Devon Allen, Police Officer Christy Hawxhurst, and Police Officer Michael Mims handed out the gift bags to the men and women as they filed through the breakfast line at the Rebuild Center.
The Rebuild Center, on Gravier Street across from LSU Health’s downtown New Orleans campus, is a day shelter collaborative of three nonprofits working with St. Joseph Church to provide a multitude of services to people without homes.
“Lt. Taylor’s project is the culmination of effective community policing,” noted LSU Health New Orleans University Police Chief William Joseph. “Our officers try to get to know the people around our campus and let them get to know us. They know we have a job to do. Today was a chance to provide a little extra support with some useful and comforting gifts.”
Taylor collected the donations and personally shopped for the items. She and her fellow officers assembled the bags. Taylor then recruited a band of blue elves to deliver them.
“It felt great,” Taylor said. “I just wish we could have done more.”
She’s already looking ahead to next year. “I would like to make this a yearly thing, each year bigger and better.”