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Volunteers Make Back to School Days Brighter

El Nido Family Centers and Kaiser Permanente team up to provide 400 backpacks to children in need.

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“This is the time of year when I start to worry at the thought of everything that my children will need for the new school year like new clothes, new shoes, new backpacks and school supplies,” says Maria Garcia, a mother of three young children from Pacoima, California. “Sometimes the money isn’t enough to purchase everything they need, but we try our best.”

Mrs. Garcia’s sentiment was echoed by dozens of working class parents who recently made their way to the Pacoima Community Center to take part in the Back to School backpack giveaway event presented for the fifth consecutive year by El Nido Family Centers and Kaiser Permanente.

For many low-income families, the rising costs of school supplies have become a real burden. According to one study, families will spend an average of $1,239 on back-to-school supplies this year. For a family of four living at or below poverty level, this is more than 50% of a month’s wages.

“As someone who grew up without much, I see myself in these kids,” says Linda Medina, vice president, revenue cycle, Kaiser Permanente Southern California. “I know how meaningful it can be to receive something as simple as a backpack filled with school supplies. I am honored to be a part of an event that celebrates families and encourages students to pursue a good education.”

This year, Kaiser Permanente Southern California’s finance department purchased more than 400 backpacks and school supplies to help make back-to-school days brighter for families served by El Nido. One week before the event, nearly 100 regional employees in finance volunteered their time to fill each backpack with essential materials like reams of paper, pens, pencils, sharpeners, notebooks, and a customized inspirational note for every student.

"I am grateful to be part of this event,” explained Sandra Osio, a mother of two from North Hollywood, California. “It inspires parents, especially in the Latino community, to see the local support," she added.

The Hawaiian luau-themed event included a fair with face painting, games, and art activities. Students from UCLA and Cal State Northridge were also on hand answering questions from high school students interested in attending college.

Additionally, representatives from the Pacoima Community Center helped adults with voter registration, and the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles (CHIRLA) provided tools and support.

Guided by the philosophy that “a child cannot grow up twice,” El Nido is a safe haven for at-risk populations in Los Angeles, providing critical services to over 10,000 children, youth and family members each year in some of L. A. County’s most disadvantaged neighborhoods.

In addition to the Back to School backpack event, Kaiser Permanente’s Panorama City Medical Center awarded El Nido Family Centers with a $10,000 grant to support their work in the Pacoima community.

To learn more about El Nido Family Centers, visit http://elnidofamilycenters.org/.