Foothill Unity Center’s Annual Back to School Distribution

  • Citrus College cosmetology students and a group of professional stylists contributed a full day of haircutting and manicure services. Photo: MoCee Photography

By Linda Taubenreuther

Foothill Unity Center’s annual Back to School Distribution has always been a communitywide effort. On August 13, after months of planning and work by the Center and its friends, some 1,300 preregistered local K-12 children of very low income families got the backpacks, school supplies and clothing they needed to start the school year with confidence.

“77% of our clients have incomes at or below the National Poverty Level,” said Center Executive Director Betty McWilliams. “Many are employed, but with today’s economic cutbacks, they don’t get the hours they need to survive without help. This event helps struggling parents send their children back to class with the new items they can’t afford to provide — and helps these kids  start the school year on a level playing field. “

Throughout the day-long event at Santa Anita Park racetrack in Arcadia, a circle of support surrounded the excited youngsters every step of the way. Smiles were everywhere, and JD Party Pros kept kids, parents and volunteers dancing. Some 800 volunteers worked the event, staffing distribution tables for everything from uniforms and Payless Shoes vouchers to notebooks and calculators. Each child wore a “passport” lanyard with check-offs to make sure no one missed a single table.

Citrus College cosmetology students and a group of professional stylists contributed a full day of haircutting and manicure services. Monrovia Reads and A Foundation for Kids gave new grade-appropriate books to every child. Simply Help Foundation handed out pens, markers and stamps.

Health connections were a major feature. The Ostrow School of Dentistry of USC offered free dental screenings. Western University College of Optometry conducted vision screenings. SafetyBeltSafe U.S.A. showed families hands-on demonstrations of how to use seat belts and install car seats and booster seats, and gave free booster seats to qualified families.

Attendees also got access to information direct from an array of health resources. CHAPCare  – Community Health Alliance of Pasadena featured an Ask the Doctor table. There was information on health, nutrition, vaccinations, first aid, and more from the American Red Cross, Options Child Care Services, Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, the Department of Public Social Services, Methodist Hospital, Monrovia Health Center,  Network for a Healthy California, Pacific Clinics, the Pasadena Public Health Department, PHFE WIC Program and URDC/Bill Moore Community Health Center.

Fun was the order of the day, as kids lined up to learn about and see a model Mars rover from Jet Propulsion Laboratories (JPL), visited the Exelis 3-D Deep Space Exploration exhibit and created a ceramic art project with Paint N Play. Other popular destinations included the Southern California Edison Big Truck display plus fire engines and crew members from the Arcadia and Monrovia Fire Departments. A snack center offered apple slices courtesy of McDonald’s Restaurants Monrovia and Duarte, egg rolls from Panda Restaurant Group and popcorn from LA Partyworks.

The cost of the massive event was covered by donations from hundreds of local individuals, companies and organizations. Major sponsors were Georgina Frederick Children Foundation, Simplicity Bank and Vons Company Charitable Foundation. Other key sponsors included Capital Source Bank, Carmax Foundation, Marshalls/TJX Companies, Ronald McDonald House Charities, Santa Anita Park, and Wells Fargo Foundation.

Generous support also came from Fred and Diane Bowden, Duarte’s Promise, Duarte Transit, Foothill Unity Center Auxiliary, Monrovia Transit, Monrovia League, The Monrovian Family Restaurant, Pacific Clinics, Peach Café, Betty Sandford, Starbucks Coffee, 3M Company and Donna and Jim White.

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