The holidays are fast approaching and many call it the season of giving. It is a time of not only giving to friends and family but also giving to those in need. One St. Tammany mom has organized a way not only to give during the holidays but all year round. Wendy Keller and her close friend Tina Billiot started an organization this year called Our Friends Closet which helps students in need.
Although St. Tammany is an affluent area, there are 316 students within the St. Tammany Parish public school district that are currently homeless and a projected 1,000 or more will be homeless by the end of the school year. There are not only homeless students in need, but also students who might not be able to afford essentials.
The catalyst to Keller’s idea was her 14-year old daughter who is a student in the St. Tammany Parish public schools. One day Keller’s daughter asked her for extra hygiene products to take to school for her friends that were homeless. After calling the school office at St. Tammany Junior High, she confirmed that this was a true need.
“It ate at me,” she said. “Then, in church one Saturday the homily was ‘If not me, then who? And if not now, then when?”’
That is when both Wendy Keller and Tina Billiot started to collect basic hygiene supplies and made their first delivery to two schools, St. Tammany Junior High and Salmen High School. From then on word begin to spread through social media.
Currently the Billiot’s home has a room that is filled with supplies such as socks, deodorant, shampoo, toothbrushes and even quarters for the laundromats. Crews fill the supplies up into bags and they are delivered to the schools. There is no contact with the students, all the work is done through the counselors at each school.
Our Friends Closet is now registered as a nonprofit and now delivers to schools in St. Tammany, St. Bernard, Tangipahoa and Washington parishes and Ocean Springs, Mississippi.