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Needy Children Go on Shopping Spree

August 06, 2000|ROBERTO J. MANZANO

There were no nagging parents around as dozens of excited kids hunted for shoes and school clothes during a shopping spree Saturday morning. And that was the way organizers wanted it.

"It's great for the kids' self-esteem. It helps them to build more independence and decision-making" skills, said Laurie Walton, a board member of the nonprofit group Meeting Each Need with Dignity. The group and the San Fernando Valley Interfaith Council organized the "child spree."

About 80 children spread throughout a Mervyn's California store in Sun Valley. Each had a $100 coupon and was accompanied by a volunteer who helped pick items and keep the purchases within budget. The kids also received free school supplies and backpacks.

Volunteer Joyce Price accompanied 12-year-old Juan Carlos Ibanez as he set aside socks, a plaid shirt, parachute pants and school uniforms--white polo shirts and navy blue slacks.

"It gives kids a little bit of confidence in school," said Price, 43, of Northridge. "They won't be the ones in the old clothes."

Lupe Acosta, a clothing center manager for MEND, visited families and selected about half of the participating children. Although MEND provides clothes, this opportunity is special, she said.

"A lot of clothes we give out are in good condition, but they aren't brand-new," Acosta said.

Many of the children needed clothes to use as school uniforms and nicer clothes for special occasions, Acosta said. Several also had only sandals, which they cannot wear to schools that require closed-toe shoes, she said.

Nine-year-old Adrianna Diaz said she usually gets her clothes from MEND and that this was her first shopping trip to a big store.

"We got lots of uniforms," said Adrianna, who also had in hand a pink shorts and shirt combination, a blue jumper, pajamas, socks and underwear.

"She's got good taste and she loves shopping," said Mary Milne of Mission Hills, who accompanied the Pacoima girl.

At the cash register, volunteer Bob Camacho and 10-year-old Ernie Kuylen were relieved to learn they had extra money after a saleswoman rang up the total.

"Go buy a shirt. You got 10 more bucks," Camacho told Ernie.

The Panorama City boy ran off and quickly returned with a $10 yellow T-shirt.

"I like having a connection with Ernie," said Camacho, 44, of Burbank. "We hit it off well."

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