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Clippers take part in South L.A. food giveaway

Two players return to their old neighborhood with other teammates to pass out food to about 800 families at the local Salvation Army center.

October 25, 2009|Robert Faturechi

The food giveaway Saturday afternoon was something of a homecoming for two Los Angeles Clippers, as they returned to their old neighborhood in South Los Angeles to help needy families.

Veteran point guard Baron Davis and forward Craig Smith joined forces with teammates, the Salvation Army and Feed the Children, a Christian nonprofit, to pass out food and other goods to about 800 families.

Davis, joined by his 88-year-old grandmother, Lela, and sporting a bushy beard, said he felt nostalgic returning to his old turf, just a block away from the court where he had his first basketball practice.

"This whole neighborhood brings back memories," he said.

Major food giveaways at Salvation Army centers are generally reserved for the holiday season, but organizers said the slumping economy prompted them to arrange this one. The center on South Central Avenue is struggling to meet a 175% surge in demand for food during the last year.

"We've seen people coming here for food who used to give to the Salvation Army," said Mortimer Jones, executive director of the South L.A. center.

The event followed reports of continued economic woes. The outlook is especially grim for Southern California, where the economy has been hit hard by deflated housing and construction markets.

In Los Angeles County, unemployment hit 12.7% last month, and was even higher in disadvantaged communities.

Woody Williams, 49, came by himself, hoping to take food to his wife and three daughters. Since being laid off from his maintenance position a few months ago, the Inglewood resident and his wife -- a stay-at-home mother -- have struggled to bring in much income.

"It was pretty hard, but reality has set in and I need to deal with it," he said, waiting in a line that wrapped around the block. "Lots of people aren't hiring right now, but I'm still going to keep looking."

Recipients, who were pre-screened based on need, were given boxes of personal hygiene products and makeup; cans of kidney beans, carrots and potatoes; and packages of rice and macaroni.

Francisco Solis, 38, waited in line with his wife, Esperanza, and his two young daughters, taking swigs from a Coke can under the hot afternoon sun. Solis and his wife work in the garment district but don't get as much work as they once did, he said.

"We're poor," he said. "We don't have much, and our salaries are small, and there isn't much work."

Among those who were employed, many said they didn't have enough work. Daisy Williams, 51, of South Los Angeles said her hours as a home care provider have been cut in half during the last year. Her husband, a handyman who once brought in $40,000 a year, now brings in only about $10,000.

"It's been the worst year of my life," she said.

Organizers at the Salvation Army pointed out that the day's giveaway, despite the Clippers in attendance, was just a small part of their monthly efforts.

"We gave about as much today as we do in a regular week," Jones said.

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robert.faturechi@latimes.com

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