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Back-to-school shopping with a twist

Several low-income families attend an annual event that hands out school supplies to local children who need them.

August 21, 2012|By Joanna Clay
  • Ashley Flores, Camila Argueta, Kiara Flores and Michele Fidel, left to right, examine each other's school supply choices during an event that donated the supplies and other goods Friday.
Ashley Flores, Camila Argueta, Kiara Flores and Michele… (DON LEACH, Coastline…)

For some families in Laguna Beach,back-to-schoolshopping isn't a yearly tradition they can afford for their children.

On Friday the No Square Theatre and American Legion opened the doors to low-income families, allowing kids to stock up on backpacks and school supplies. The Woman's Club Resource Center and the Exchange Club were also partners in the event.

The theater has been doing it for more than 20 years, said Program Director Sande St. John.

About 50 people gathered — parents, relatives and kids — as supplies were handed out, hot dogs were barbecued and music played on the front lawn. Besides school items, clothes and hygiene kits were also donated.

Xochitl Javier, 11, lit up when she talked about her new purple backpack. It's her favorite color.

"I thought it was really nice of people to donate stuff for us to get," said Xochitl, who starts sixth grade at Thurston Middle School in the fall.

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Fernando Alonso, 10, laughed with friends as they put in their names for the raffle prizes, which included a PlayStation, televisions and clothing.

"I feel really happy," Fernando said. "They're trying to give us backpacks because we don't have money to buy them."

Connie Burlin, a Laguna Beach resident, has been volunteering at the party for the past six years. She does it to give back, she said, and it doesn't hurt seeing the excitement in the kids' faces when they pick out their backpacks for the year.

Graciela Mejia, who has three children, felt fortunate that her kids could benefit from the donated items.

"For my family it's important because I don't have too much money," she said.

Mejia, 43, who works as a housekeeper and nanny, said that she works very hard, but when it comes to expenditures, paying rent and bills comes first. She said the donations could save her family a couple hundred dollars; backpacks alone can be as much as $50.

"We've known some of them since they were born," St. John said of the kids and their mothers. "They couldn't send their kids back to school with anything like this."

joanna.clay@latimes.com

Twitter: @joannaclay

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