2012-09-21 / Schools

Club gives students in need a new wardrobe

By Stephanie Guzman


LOOKING GOOD—Dominic Castro, 5, approves a pair of pants held by Lions Club member Bob Ellis while shopping for new clothes at Target in Camarillo on Sept. 15. The Camarillo-Somis Pleasant Valley Lions Club donated money used by the youngsters for back-to-school clothes. 
MICHAEL COONS/Acorn Newspapers LOOKING GOOD—Dominic Castro, 5, approves a pair of pants held by Lions Club member Bob Ellis while shopping for new clothes at Target in Camarillo on Sept. 15. The Camarillo-Somis Pleasant Valley Lions Club donated money used by the youngsters for back-to-school clothes. MICHAEL COONS/Acorn Newspapers Shopping for back-to-school clothes and supplies can put a strain on the budget of a family struggling just to buy the basics in a difficult economy.

Sandy Macias and her teenage son, Jorge, hadn’t expected to be able to afford new clothes for the school year, but a local service club changed that.

On Sept. 15 Jorge joined 35 other students at the Camarillo Target for a back-to-school shopping trip provided by the Camarillo-Somis Pleasant Valley Lions Club.

The club annually gives $150 gift cards to homeless kindergarten through-12th-grade students whose families can’t afford what so many kids look forward to before the new school year—a new wardrobe.

“I’m barely starting to work and get on my feet, so this is a big help,” said Macias, who encouraged her son to buy only what he needed: new socks, undershirts and shoes.

The 33-year-old Camarillo resident said the event is a blessing, especially for a mom with a teenage boy growing out of his clothes.

“It’s nice to know there are people out there willing to help us,” Macias said.

The Lions Club partnered with the Ventura County Office of Education to identify Camarillo and Somis homeless children, a label given to youths with families in transitional living centers or couch-surfing teens.

“The biggest eye-opener is families moving in together because they can’t afford rent on their own,” said Silvia Chavez with the Ventura County Office of Education.

Chavez said she has a hard time convincing people that they qualify for the Homeless Education Project program, especially families that temporarily move in with other families.

“No one wants to label themselves as homeless,” she said.

The Homeless Education Project coordinator said she’s seen the student homeless population increase due to the recession. Chavez said there were 3,061 homeless students identified in Ventura County during the 2010- 11 school year, up from 2,098 in the 2009-10 school year.

In light of those numbers, the Lions Club decided to continue the event, now in its 11th year.

The club raised $6,000 by handling parking during the Ventura County Fair and used the money to buy Target gift cards.

After the shopping trip, the Lions Club gave gift cards that had a leftover balance to the Ventura County Office of Education to buy winter coats for homeless children.

Lions Club vice president George Graham said 41 club volunteers went shopping with the children.

One mother, Sandra Garcia, anxiously waited outside Target while her 9-year-old daughter, Marlene, shopped with a Lions Club volunteer.

“She’s really into skinny jeans right now,” said Garcia, who is in a transitional living center with her three children. “I said if you want to take her, go ahead, because she’ll be in (Target) all day.”

Garcia’s 8-year-old son, Izaac, had already exited the store with three shopping bags of boxers, socks, basketball shorts, a sweatshirt and a new hat.

“He loves his hats,” Garcia said.

The children were also given a McDonald’s breakfast from the Ventura County Office of Education and a backpack full of supplies from the nonprofit group School on Wheels.

“This was my first time, and when I found out we were chosen (for the shopping trip), I was so happy and excited,” Garcia said. “I’m just thankful.”

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