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Building Families
Couples interested in adopting a baby have a once-a-year opportunity to join the Volunteers of America's Maternity and Adoption Program, Caring Alternatives, which helps parents through the adoption process with counseling, legal, medical and after-adoption support.

The VOA's pool of prospective adoptive parents is opened for a short period each year; couples can fill out applications through January 2003. Prospective parents must be between 27 and 40 years old and married for at least three years. Call Caring Alternatives at 836-8702 to obtain a questionnaire.

VOA's Maternity and Adoption Program, which started in 1942, specializes in open adoptions in which the birth parents are allowed to have an ongoing relationship with the child and adoptive parents.


Tree of Love

There will be a very special Christmas tree in the atrium of the Ochsner Clinic Foundation (1514 Jefferson Hwy.) this year. On Friday, the hospital is holding a special ceremony to decorate its "Tree of Life" -- with ornaments purchased in honor of friends and loved ones.

The decorating ceremony at 10 a.m. includes a reading of the personalized ornaments before they are hung on the tree as well as performances by Ronnie Kole, St. Michael Special School's bell choir, and choirs from Ursuline Middle School, St. Alphonsus and St. Frances Cabrini.

Memorial ornaments are $10 each and can be purchased by calling 842-7113. Proceeds benefit cardiology research and education. The ceremony is dedicated to the late Rev. Charles B. Moore, a cardiologist and Episcopal priest who died last year.


Suicide Prevention
Winter holidays are a great time of joy for many, but for others it can bring on intense depression, blues and despair. With rates of suicide increasing (it spiked by 109 percent between 1980 and 1997) across age ranges from teenagers to older Americans, the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA) believes discussing suicide can prevent it.

In support of that theory, the organization is offering a free new booklet, Suicide Prevention and Mood Disorders, to help people wrestling with suicidal thoughts and the family and friends who love them work through them safely. The DBSA says it is offering the booklet free of charge because statistics show that two-thirds of the 30,000 Americans who commit suicide each year suffer from some type of depression or bipolar disorder. The group also offers a patient-run support group for depression and bipolar disorder patients.

To obtain a copy of the booklet, call 842-5425 or read it online at www.dbsalliance.org.


Just Rewards
Everyone needs a little positive feedback sometimes, and at the new X-Trainers personal fitness training studio (575 S. Carrollton Ave., 282-0046; www.x-trainers.com) in the Riverbend, good behaviors are rewarded with free products and services.

Owner Leilani Heno, who opened the studio at the corner of St. Charles and Carrollton avenues two months ago, attributes part of her company's success to rewarding clients when possible. At the end of each month, training clients are given rewards such as massages, gift certificates and cash for attending sessions and reaching personal health goals.

Under the X-Trainers program, customers work with personal trainers at the private facility between two and five days a week. Services include fitness testing, nutritional counseling and other activities.


Health Options
The Louisiana Department of Insurance's Senior Health Insurance Information Program (SHIIP) is holding presentations to give members of Ochsner Health Plan's Total Health 65 program, which won't be offered in St. Tammany and Washington parishes after Dec. 31, an idea of their options for health care.

Residents affected by the change in availability can attend a free presentation from 10 a.m. to noon on Dec. 11, at the Greater Covington Center (317 N. Jefferson St., Covington, 985-898-4043). SHIIP representatives will explain legal rights and protections for former Total Health 65 members, who have guaranteed access to Medicare Supplemental Insurance.

SHIIP, a program of the Louisiana Department of Insurance, provides free information about senior health insurance products, including Medicare, Medigap, Medicare HMOs and more.

click to enlarge For two months only, the 60-year-old VOA Maternity and Adoption Program will accept applications from couples who want to adopt a baby.
  • For two months only, the 60-year-old VOA Maternity and Adoption Program will accept applications from couples who want to adopt a baby.
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