350 migrant children get school supplies they need in Myakka City

Migrant children get school supplies they need

rdymond@bradenton.comOctober 22, 2012 

MYAKKA CITY -- Soleda Paz and her husband, Josefino Garcia, gather peppers from dawn to dusk at Falkner Farms in Myakka City.

Paid by the pound, each earn an average of $40 to $45 per day.

Paz and Garcia have three children, ages three, five and seven.

A school backpack for each child, with everything else on the family's monthly bill list, could not be a priority, Paz said Sunday.

"It would be hard," she said, her Spanish interpreted by Michelle Gulsby.

To help the children of Paz and Garcia and roughly 350 more, all of whose parents are seasonal migrant laborers in Manatee County, Manatee Technical Institute's Farmworker Education and Services Program and the Adelante Team of Tropicana Products Inc. teamed to donate backpacks for every migrant child Sunday.

Roughly 150 children showed up Sunday and backpacks will be delivered to the rest, said Esperanza Gamboa, coordinator of the Farmworker Education and Services Program.

The sparkling new black backpacks stuffed with supplies lay in a huge pile awaiting their new owners at the 5th Annual Back to School Celebration at the Head Start school at Falkner Farms, 35100 State Road 64 East, Myakka City.

The children live with their parents on Falkner Farms in migrant camp housing and attend area elementary schools, officials said.

Each backpack contained paper, notebooks, pencils, erasers, scissors, pens, a ruler and other supplies.

"We are here today celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month and giving 350 children here in Myakka City the opportunity to have all the supplies they need for school," Gamboa said.

The children enjoyed pizza and cake and "Texcalli" Mexican dancers.

The parents, few who spoke English, said they were pleased with their smiles.

Migrant moms and dads stress education, so these supplies will put their students on a level playing field with other students, said Mary Ann Guerrero, a case manager for the Farmworker Education and Services Program.

"It's important for all children to feel they are being acknowledged and getting their basic needs met," Guerrero said.

Scott McGarrity, a supply chain finance manager for Tropicana, said Sunday's event fits perfectly in his company's vision.

McGarrity found himself sitting among the children, entertaining them with a hand puppet.

"We just like to be involved in the local community and give something back," McGarrity said.

Tropicana's parent company, Pepsico, has a motto that says, "performance with purpose," according to McGarrity.

"The idea is to be good stewards of the community while achieving business growth," McGarrity added.

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