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Families Receive Toys and Food for Holiday

VALLEY ROUNDUP | Arleta

December 19, 1999|ROBERTO J. MANZANO

At the end of a long line of hundreds of families in an alley behind El Proyecto del Barrio, Sandra Montoya patiently waited for her turn to receive free bags of food and toys.

Montoya, 34, was there with her three young daughters. As she waited, she changed her 9-month-old's diapers. The Panorama City woman explained she isn't working or receiving government assistance, and her husband is supporting the family.

Then Montoya's husband, Julio, showed up with white stains on his hands from his job as a painter.

"We came more for the toys than the food," said Julio Montoya, 36. "But if they give us food too, that's fine."

Added his wife, "There are a lot of poor families in need."

The Montoyas moved to the U.S. a little more than a decade ago from El Salvador.

About 500 families attended the 10th annual event at El Proyecto, a nonprofit outreach center that caters to low-income people in the area. It was sponsored by Navidad en el Barrio, a charitable organization that distributed food and gifts to people at 46 locations in Southern California this holiday season.

As volunteers and workers handed out the gifts, children posed for photos with Santa after receiving a toy.

"In this community, we don't turn anyone down," said Lori Franco, program manager at El Proyecto del Barrio. "It's important to serve the community at the end of the year, at least to provide them a Christmas meal and a toy."

Each bag of food contained a chicken, tortillas, canned vegetables, cheese, tomato sauce, rice, popcorn and other staples.

Veronica Ross, 32, of North Hills, said she attended because she wanted toys for her children: "I try to give them what they need, but I can't always give them what they want."

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