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Thousands of children get shoes, clothing at giveaway

October 1, 2009 |  3:58 pm

Thousands of underprivileged children and their parents stood in line today for the annual giveaway of shoes, clothing and school supplies at the Fred Jordan Mission in downtown Los Angeles.

Organizers said they served about 5,000 people, giving away at least 4,000 pairs of shoes to needy children.

The line stretched four blocks from the Fred Jordan Mission at 5th Street and Towne Avenue. At least 2,500 people had camped out on the street Wednesday night to make certain they did not walk away empty-handed, said Tom Jordan, the mission's executive vice president.

Among them was 39-year-old Maria Aguilar of Koreatown. Six months ago, Aguilar gathered her three children and left the man who for years had physically abused her. Now, she says, she doesn’t have the money to buy new school clothes or shoes for her children.

So, on Wednesday evening, she brought along ham sandwiches, lemonade and soup as she and her children slept on the sidewalk.

“I feel happy,” Aguilar said. “I’m glad there’s a place where we can get help.”

Over 20 years, the annual giveaway has helped 100,000 impoverished children and their families. The event is among seven giveaways the mission organizes each year, including Christmas toy drives and Thanksgiving meals, according to its website.

Today’s 21st annual back-to-school giveaway began at 9:30 a.m., with hundreds of children receiving new shoes and socks, all provided by Foot Locker. About 60 Foot Locker volunteers were on hand to ensure that each child's shoes were custom-fitted.

At least 300 other volunteers helped distribute care packages that contained toothpaste, soap, shampoo and other items, as well as backpacks. Another 150 volunteers helped give children haircuts.

For lunch, everyone got a hamburger from In-N-Out Burger, said Willie Jordan, president of the mission.

“Foot Locker is proud once again to be part of the Fred Jordan Mission’s Back-to-School Giveaway program,” said Keith Daly, president and chief executive of Foot Locker. “This year marks our 21st year of donating more than 100,000 pairs of athletic shoes and socks to children in need within the Los Angeles community.”

Julio De Los Reyes, 10, who attends 75th Street Elementary School in Los Angeles, said he was looking forward to receiving shoes and school supplies. His brother, Kevin, 4, said he was looking forward to everything. "I want the whole thing,” Kevin said.

Organizers were concerned that some items would run out as the crowd continued to grow. "IIt seems like we had more, the police even said we had more,” Jordan said.

In the end, the mission ran out of shoes and pants for children ages 5 to 11. "That’s what makes me sad,” Jordan said. “Some children will leave without shoes.”

As of 3 p.m., volunteers were still handing out backpacks, care packages and meals.

“We are grateful for all the help we’ve received,” Jordan said. “In all these years, God always takes care of these families.”

—Ruben Vives