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Families camp out overnight on skid row for school clothes giveaway

October 1, 2009 |  9:45 am

Six months ago, Maria Aguilar gathered up 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.

But she had heard about the annual back-to-school giveaway at the Fred Jordan Mission in Downtown L.A. So on Wednesday evening, she and her kids traveled from their home in Koreatown to skid row, where they camped out on the street for this morning's event.

"I feel happy," Aguilar said Wednesday evening. "I'm glad there's a place where we can get help."

The giveaway has helped more than 100,000 impoverished children and their families for 20 years. The annual event, now in its 21st year, is among seven giveaways the mission organizes each year, including Christmas toy drives and Thanksgiving meals, according to its website.

Starting at 9:30 this morning, hundreds of children will receive athletic shoes and socks provided by Foot Locker. About 60 Foot Locker volunteers will be on hand to ensure each child is custom-fitted, organizers said. Three hundred volunteers will distribute backpacks, hygiene products and other items. Children will receive free haircuts and lunch.

"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 CEO 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 Wednesday 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.

But some may miss out on receiving some items. Organizers said they have seen a 30% increase in the crowd this year.

"There's more and more people turning for help," said Tom Jordan, executive vice president for the Fred Jordan Mission.

"Our goal is, of course, that everyone will be served, but there might be some items, though, we might run out of," Jordan said. "If we run out of things at this event, it will be the first time in the history of the event."

The nonprofit, faith-based Fred Jordan Mission on Towne Street has been feeding the hungry and providing assistance to impoverished families since 1944.

--Ruben Vives

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