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MEND Brings Christmas to Needy Families PDF Print E-mail
Written by Alex Garcia   
Thursday, 20 December 2012 06:04

Nonprofit Gives Out Hundreds of Food Baskets and Toys

ALEX GARCIA/SFVS

The nonprofit agency Meet Each Need with Dignity (MEND) recently turned it's Pacoima headquarters into its version of the North Pole with hundreds of toys, blankets and food items as dozens of volunteers elves and, most importantly, Santa Claus – who arrived via a red convertible sleigh – gave out the goodies to needy families. Families like that of Lilian Vielman, a single mother of four from Pacoima, who lost her job recently and is struggling to have a merry Christmas.

"The lady I cared for died and I lost my job," said Vielman, whose children range from age seven to 17.

"Right now we're trying to make it through, but it's tough to be without money in Christmas. You want to give the best to your children, but you can't. Things are a little uncertain right now."

ALEX GARCIA/SFVS

The Vielmans and 1,350 other families received baskets full of food and blankets, and children were able to choose from hundreds of donated toys, all part of MEND's annual Christmas Basket Distribution. The baskets contained chicken, bread, yogurt, coffee and a number of other staples. This is the first time her family was chosen for the annual program, and Vielman couldn't be happier.

"I think what they're doing is wonderful, especially in this time of need," she said. A need that has grown tremendously in the past few years, as the economic recession deepened, said MEND President Marianne Haver Hill.

ALEX GARCIA/SFVS

"These are all families that have been pre-screened. They're all below the poverty line, which is $23,000 annual income for a family of four," she said.

"The need is huge. In the past two years, our food basket need has grown 200 percent. So many people have lost their jobs. They're looking, but can't find them. It's a struggle for many families."

Besides the annual gift giving, the children and families got an extra treat, as Santa flew over in a helicopter, thanks to Group 3 Aviation at Pacoima's Whiteman Airport. After landing, Santa got inside a red convertible Cadillac that took him to MEND's front steps, as cheers and Ho-Ho- Hos filled the air.

ALEX GARCIA/SFVS

While the children had the chance to get their picture taken with Santa, parents received the food baskets and blankets before everyone went to the second floor of the building along San Fernando Road, which had been converted into a holiday wonderland full of toys, books and other items.

For Fanny Cortez, a mother of two from Sylmar, it was a magical experience. "This helps so much for families who don't have anything to make their children happy right now in Christmas," said Cortez, who was helped by the program for the second year in a row.

ALEX GARCIA/SFVS

"Christmas is so special for kids, because they expect gifts and when you don't have money to buy them, you feel really bad."

She said, "work is really slow right now and bills don't wait," so she and her family are trying to make ends meet. But now her kids can have a happier holiday.

"Just to see a gift under the tree makes it very special. Today is a day of happiness for my children," Cortez said.

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Last Updated on Thursday, 20 December 2012 06:11