By Bonny Van

The Catholic Commentator 

It’s almost that time of year, the time for reaching out to friends and relatives during the Christmas season. For more than 500 inmates in the Tangipohoa Parish Jail in Amite, making those connections is especially important. Deacon Nat Garofola, who visits those incarcerated at the jail regularly, began distributing the Christmas cards 11 years ago.  

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Deacon Nat Garofola sorts through some of the Christmas cards donated for inmates at the Tangipahoa Parish Jail. Deacon Garofola collects cards from parishioners at several churches to distribute to more than 500 inmates.  Photo by Bonny Van | The Catholic Commentator 

 

“The inmates asked me for toiletries stuff, like soap, which I can’t give them because the jail has a commissary,” said Deacon Garofola of Mater Dolorosa Church in Independence. “So, I came up with the idea for the Christmas cards because it’s something that, think about it, if you’re an inmate and you want to send out five Christmas cards, you’re not going to have the money to buy stamps. And where are you going to get the cards? So, they don’t have to worry about it.”  

According to Deacon Garofola, the Christmas card collection has grown to include all of the Catholic churches in Tangipahoa Parish and some in Livingston Parish: St. Helena Church in Amite; Mater Dolorosa; St. Dominic Church in Husser; Our Lady of Pompeii Church in Tickfaw; St. Albert the Great Chapel and Catholic Student Center in Hammond; Holy Ghost Church in Hammond; St. Joseph Church in Pontchatoula; St. Margaret Queen of Scotland Church in Albany; and St. Thomas Church in Springfield.  

“The church will decorate a nice little box with Christmas wrap and I’ll put a sign on it that says, ‘cards and stamps for inmates,’ ” explained Deacon Garofola. “Last year, I collected like 6,500 cards and right at 2,000 had stamps on them, so that’s a lot.”  

Deacon Garofola said the collection runs from late October to early December. Then, he and his wife, Jeanette, spend hours each night sorting the cards and preparing them in packs of 50 to distribute. At times, the work has been overwhelming and the couple has enlisted the help of students from St. Thomas Aquinas High School in Hammond. But, it’s a labor of love for the Garofolas.  

“Those inmates and their response is incredible and they’re waiting on the cards,” said Deacon Garofola. “Word gets out, ‘Man, this guy’s got Christmas cards so don’t worry about it.’ So, it’s a good deal. It makes everybody happy.”