LOS ANGELES, CA (October 19, 2010) – Evangelical Covenant Church members and leaders were among the leadership team and 300 volunteers who participated in the Fred Jordan Mission “back-to-school” giveaway that served 5,500 of the city’s poorest children in one day.
That set a record for what the mission already called the largest back-to-school giveaway in the country. Walter Contreras, director of outreach and Hispanic church planting for the Pacific Southwest Conference, served as the event director and has been part of the giveaway since it started 22 years ago. Moses Barrios, who is forming a core group for a Covenant church plant, also worked on the leadership team.
Children who attend Rolling Hills Covenant Church Sunday school classes distributed hygiene kits in bags they had decorated (accompanying photo). “The bags were really beautiful,” Contreras said. “The kids were amazing.”
Roughly 8,000 people showed up, with 5,500 of them being the children who received essentials like notebooks, pens, backpacks, socks, jeans, hygiene kits, and shoes. Foot Locker, a major sponsor for two decades, gave away $1 million worth of shoes, Contreras said. For some, the shoes are the only pair the children own, he added.
More than school supplies were provided. One hundred Paul Mitchell stylists and students volunteered their services to cut hair free of charge.
The giveaway underwent a major reorganization this year because some families had begun lining up three days in advance, blocking the street and businesses. City officials and organizers were concerned for the safety of the people.
“We didn’t want people staying out on the street,” Contreras said.
He worked with the Los Angeles Police Department and City Council member Jan Perry to set up a system that would cause the least amount of disruption. The week prior to the event, volunteers handed out wrist bracelets to ensure that people would have a place in line.
Families had to pre-register for the event, receiving a wristband for a two-hour timeslot to go pick up their supplies. They cordoned off 10 city blocks to accommodate the crowd.
“People are in great need,” Contreras observed.