Family fills survival bags for SW La.’s homeless

Published 5:00 am Monday, January 31, 2022

Nadine Bertrand, a Sulphur mom who home-schools her children, used last month’s winter weather as a teachable moment for her children. The family had been studying acts of kindness when the freezing temperatures proved to be a chance for a hand-on lesson.

“A lot of times what we teach, and not just in home school, can seem far off and distant,” Bertrand said. “But when I realized how cold it would get, how many people have no home period or still haven’t recovered from the storms, I knew it was time to practice what we preach.”

Bertrand began talking with her children about the blessings of having a warm, heated home to help the reality of the frigid temperature make sense. The kids began to brainstorm ways to help and while all the ideas were well-intentioned, it took a little effort to help them scale their ideas into something practical, Bertrand said laughing. “Inviting someone into our home wasn’t an option, buying a family a new house wasn’t, either, and even paying for hotel room was out of reach so I told the kids, ‘Let’s think about what can we do.’ ”

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The family loves to travel, one of the perks of home-schooling, Bertrand said. With drawers full of hotel soaps, shampoos and other toiletries, even the youngest family members could help pack care bags for those staying in local hotels sponsored by the non-profits and city governments.

The family took one day to pack 25 bags with toiletries and another day to purchase non-perishable snacks to add and their project was complete. “This felt really good. I was honestly surprised with how into it the kids were, especially since we just used simple things we already had on hand.”

The children took away important lessons beyond what Bertrand expected, she added. “Of course, I’d hoped they would have good attitudes and be generous but even once the weather passed I noticed my oldest was listening to the world around him a little different. Almost as if he was listening and looking for way to be charitable. That’s probably been my favorite thing out of the whole experience. It’s like he really gets it.”