Christmas is in the bag for San Mar residents

December 16, 2002|by LAURA ERNDE

Editor's note: This is one in a series of stories running on the 12 days before Christmas to recognize individuals and groups who make the holidays better for others.

About 30 years have gone by, but Lelia Boudreaux never forgot a polite classmate named Dora who lived at San Mar Children's Home in Boonsboro.

"There was something about her that was endearing. She didn't have a lot to give except who she was," Boudreaux said.

So it was Dora who came to mind recently when Boudreaux decided to do something nice for others this holiday season.


The Hagerstown woman decided to give all the girls at San Mar personalized gift bags this Christmas filled with "pretty things that girls like." With the help of her friends, she has put together 30 bags that she delivered to the group home for girls at their annual Christmas party last Saturday.

"I just want these girls to know they're important," she said. "Every girl needs to feel pretty."

Boudreaux got the idea for the gift bags one day when she was feeling a little sorry for herself. She said she often gets a little depressed and overwhelmed at the holidays thinking about all of those who are in need.

Trying to lift her own spirits, she thought how truly lucky she is to be surrounded by wonderful friends and family. Then she thought of the girls living at San Mar who are separated from their families and how hard that must be, especially at the holidays.

She didn't have a lot of money to spend, but she put her 18-year passion for soap-making into the project.

Convinced that her own mood when making soap affects the outcome, Boudreaux said the batch she made for the girls at San Mar was one of her best ever.

For each girl, she wrapped two delicate, scented soaps in tissue paper and cellophane, tying them off with a ribbon and star emblem.

Wanting to make each girl feel like a star, she made them star-shaped pins that she painted gold and hand-decorated.

"Everybody's equal and everybody's a star," she said.

She asked family and friends to contribute something. One friend gave her homemade potpourri and her sister purchased boxes of candy for each girl.

Others helped her to fill the bags, in between preparing for Christmas and working at her two jobs. Boudreaux works part time in dispute resolution at First Data Corp. in Hagerstown and sells her homemade soaps through her Web site at

Companies that stepped forward were Morgan Stanley's Frederick, Md., office and Michaels Arts and Crafts store in Hagerstown, which gave her a heavy discount on the bags.

A Bon Ton employee offered to give each girl a makeover, Boudreaux said.

"We do have a good community and when you need it people are there," she said.

The bags also contained nail polishes in bold and sparkling colors, lip gloss, journals and pens.

A Hagerstown company was going to give each girl $5, but backed out because it would have created an accounting problem, she said.

That's when Boudreaux's husband, Christopher Abell, stepped up so each girl could get a money envelope with her name on it.

San Mar appreciates the effort, said Secretary Patricia Mose.

"It helps to make the Christmas here just a little bit brighter," she said.

The group home recently dealt with a furnace breakdown that shut off their heat for nearly a month.

Other people in the community have contributed money for the new $12,000 furnace as well as gifts for the girls that are on the agency's wish list.

Boudreaux said she hopes that her story will inspire someone else to do something nice for others this holiday season.

She plans to make the gift bags an annual tradition.

Tomorrow: Aura McCusker, member of Christmas for Others

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