NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - Covenant House in the French Quarter held a Christmas celebration for 160 at-risk and homeless teens and youth Sunday morning.
It's a tradition that's happened for 30 years as volunteers continue to step up to make sure the residents of Covenant House get to experience a genuine Christmas.
"These are young people who have no other place to go, there's not a family member, there's not a parent, there's not a grandparent, or an aunt, or uncle who will take them in on Christmas. We will," said Jim Kelly, Executive Director of Covenant House.
Kelly and his staff at Covenant House have created a tradition over the past three decades for the kids that otherwise wouldn't get to celebrate the holidays, starting with Christmas Eve.
"[There was] Bingo, and gingerbread house making, and then we had a lovely prayer service with Christmas carols, and we finished it off like all teenagers would like an evening to end, with 15 pizzas," Kelly said.
All of that followed by a Christmas morning with personalized gift bags for each resident.
"They had their own gift bag to open, they got a winter coat, they got sweat pants, they got socks, [it's] their gift," Kelly said.
After the morning gift session, the residents are treated to a table service meal from volunteers who have shown up on Christmas Day for three decades.
It's an experience that defines the holiday spirit for a group of kids who just need a little hope.
"You really realize how grateful you are and how blessed you are personally. And I think it's impossible not to love these kids, they might be the most damaged group of teenagers in America, but they are good and when you peel back that onion and you peel back the layers of pain, and abuse, and violence, they are good kids with the same hopes and dreams that your kids have," Kelly said.