- Associated Press - Saturday, December 19, 2015

HOUMA, La. (AP) - During his childhood, Chase Toups and his family took trips to the zoo and aquarium in New Orleans. As they’d exit the highway, Toups saw many homeless people underneath the bridge.

“I always thought, man, what can I do to help those people out,” Toups recalled.

And in 2013, Toups finally figured out what he could do to help the homeless and needy.

Every December for the past two years, the Houma native has been helping people in Houma-Terrebonne and New Orleans stay warm during the holidays with his 100 Jacket Mission.

“I had a burning desire to give back to the community,” Toups told the Courier and Daily Comet.

In 2013 and 2014, the mission gave away 1,300 jackets to homeless shelters in Houma and New Orleans.

Recently, the mission has already gathered 463 jackets. By Christmas, Toups hopes to give away 1,000 jackets.

Needy families at Bunk House Inn and The Haven in Houma, Claire House in Morgan City, and Ozanam Inn and Bridge House in New Orleans will receive jackets from Toups’ mission.

Jackets are donated by residents of Houma-Terrebonne and Lafourche Parish.

While Toups’ charity efforts haven’t reached Lafourche Parish yet, he said he is “more than willing to look into shelters in Lafourche Parish.”

The 32-year-old Trapp Cadillac Chevrolet salesman didn’t always know how he’d help others.

“It was almost like I was avoiding whatever was in my heart to do something,” Toups said. “Then, something kept burning in me to do a jacket mission.”

When he first posted about the mission on Facebook in 2013, it took off.

Toups, along with his parents, sister and friends, hands out jackets at shelters the weekend before Christmas in Houma and on Christmas Day in New Orleans.

“He’s always been a very giving person, very big-hearted,” said his mom, Lori Toups. Lori said during her son’s youth, he always wanted to go to the mall during the holidays to pick out an angel child as part of the Salvation Army’s Angel Tree Program.

“The child put that he wanted a Nintendo, so (Chase) wanted to give his Nintendo to the child because he didn’t need it as much (as the child,)” Lori recalled.

People close to the car salesman in his adulthood speak to his selflessness, too, including his pastor at Cross Church of Houma.

“That’s definitely (Chase) to go out of his way to help people,” Pastor Brandon Bilbo said. “To see what he’s done is such an amazing thing.”

Toups hopes to help as many people as he can this year, as he’s done in previous years.

He has drop off locations at Trapp Cadillac Chevrolet, West Park Climate Control Self Storage, LA Sports Gym and Infinity Energy Services and Cross Church of Houma.

“I don’t even look at myself as the main person of it all,” Toups said. “It’s impossible for one person to be able to do all this. God shined a light on it and I’m just being obedient to the vision he put in front of me.”

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Information from: The Courier, http://www.houmatoday.com

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