The Memory of Operation Merry Christmas Lives On

In 1951, the St. Bernard Kaiser Aluminum and Chemical plant was one of Louisiana’s biggest economic booms in the State’s history. Thirty years later, however, high labor and energy costs forced the plant to lay off most of its employees who were residents of the tightly-knit St. Bernard community.

Compassionate neighbors — with familiar names such as the Roussels, Dauterives, Wolfes, and many more — created a food basket and gift-giving program to help their fellow residents called Operation Merry Christmas. They raised money through charity bingo games and a community-wide auction with hand-crafted toys and unique items going for as much as $5,000. Year after year, Operation Merry Christmas delivered over 700 boxes of food and 2,000 toys to families throughout the parish.

Tragically, St. Bernard was hit hard by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, scattering almost half of its 75,000 residents, including the founding members of Operation Merry Christmas. Thus, the popular program came to an end.

A new start is the Operation Merry Christmas Fund, an endowed fund held at the Greater New Orleans Foundation, which was opened by the founding members earlier this year. “While many of us are no longer living in the parish,” said Tim Doody, fund advisor, “we’re still giving back to the community we love so much.”

From left to right. First row: Dr. Ralph Dauterive, Lily Dauterive, Lucille Dauterive Lorio, Chris Roussel; Second row: Sally Wolfe, Judy Hoffmeister, Peggy Murla; third row: Ronnie Lehrmann, Kathy Roussel, Danny Bourgeois, Karen Cordes and Tim Doody.