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Helping Those in Need : Woman spearheads a party to which anyone can come by bringing a gift worth $10 or more for a homeless baby or child.

June 18, 1993|BARBARA BRONSON GRAY | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES; Barbara Bronson Gray writes regularly for Valley Life

She was tired of thinking about the hopelessness of homelessness and decided to do something about it.

That's how Carol Haaz, 47, a Northridge mother and furniture sales representative, describes what made her decide to stage a multi-organizational effort to get gifts and clothes for children in need.

Every time Haaz went to the local mall last summer, she saw the same woman asking for money, with her young son at her side. "I felt so bad. It bothers me more that there are women and children on the streets because they're so vulnerable," Haaz says.

So Haaz, with the Sisterhood of Temple Ahavat Shalom in Northridge, is working with Temple Ramat Zion, the North Valley Jewish Community Center and Adventures in Learning Early Childhood Center in Granada Hills to throw a party for anyone who wants to come, on June 27.

More than 3,000 invitations have been sent. There is no entrance fee; guests are only asked to bring a baby or child gift worth $10 or more. The party will include afternoon tea with scones, fruit, cookies and finger sandwiches, with entertainment by a barbershop quartet. Presents will go to homeless children involved with seven shelters and food pantries in the San Fernando Valley and Los Angeles.

The response and the interest in the event has been overwhelming, Haaz says. "I have been a volunteer for 20 years and have never seen interest like this. The magic words are homeless children. "

Contributors include preschoolers who have been saving their nickels and dimes, and seniors who are knitting crib blankets and afghans. Haaz says donations are pouring in from all sorts of places, including markets and bakeries, children's clothes manufacturers, printers and toy companies. The group has received $1,200 in cash, 44 cases of formula, cases of clothes, stuffed animals and art supplies for older children.

It's difficult to estimate how many homeless children are in the Los Angeles area. According to Children Now, a nonprofit, nonpartisan, California-based advocacy organization, there were at least 118,000 homeless children in California as of June, 1992, the latest month for which data are available. The estimate is based on the number of children served by the state's Aid to Families With Dependent Children Homeless Assistance Program, which provides housing assistance for temporary and permanent shelter.

The children who are involved in raising funds and collecting toys and clothes seem especially committed to the effort, says Audrey Udelf, a member of the 30-person project planning committee and a religious school teacher at Temple Ahavat Shalom, where the event will be held. Part of the temple school's weekly religious instruction involves asking the children to bring in tzedakah , a donation to charity. Two classes of children who together contributed about $80 in small change went en masse to the neighborhood grocery store early in June to handpick rattles, baby food, diapers and pacifiers.

Even the little children seem to understand the plight of the homeless, Udelf says. "We had a long discussion about what it means to be homeless, how kids get to be homeless," she says. What was tough as a teacher was to strike a balance between letting the children know that homelessness could happen to anyone, and yet provide realistic reassurance that would let these children go to sleep at night without fearing that they, too, could be out on the street in the morning, she says.

WHERE AND WHEN

What: Baby Shower for Homeless Children.

Location: Temple Ahavat Shalom, 18200 Rinaldi Place, Northridge, 91326.

Hours: 2 to 4 p.m. June 27.

Price: A gift for a baby or child, worth $10 or more. To make a donation without attending, send to Carol Haaz in care of Temple Ahavat Shalom.

Call: Carol Haaz at (818) 363-7117.

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