MYAKKA CITY — Myra Guerra was grateful to get a free backpack filled with school supplies for her 9-year-old daughter Angelica on Sunday.
There was no way that Guerra, who picks cucumbers every day at Falkner Farms, could have afforded it on her own, she said.
That’s because most of the money she earns daily, between $30 and $90 depending on how many containers she can fill with cucumbers, goes back to her father and grandparents in Oaxaca, Mexico.
Guerra’s daughter was one of 150 children of migrant farmworkers from Falkner and Classy farms who received free school supplies during Sunday’s migrant farmworker pizza party and backpack giveaway.
The event was held at Falkner Farms’ large warehouse and office on the south side of State Road 64, near Manatee County’s eastern border.
The idea for giving these children school supplies came from Ivonne Ortiz , a material scheduler at Tropicana in Bradenton.
Manatee Technical Institute’s Farmworker Education and Services Program helped with all the logistics and was on hand to see it went off smoothly.
Ortiz is the leader of an employee resource group at Tropicana called Adelante who support Hispanic issues. Adelante means “forward” in English.
Adelante, in fact, is one of six employee resource groups at Tropicana, all endorsed by Pepsico, Tropicana’s parent company, said Paul Ahnberg, a Tropicana manager and Adelante volunteer.
The others are African American Network, Pepsico Asian Network, Women’s Network, Equal, which supports gays, lesbians and transgendered people and Enable, which supports people of varying physical and mental abilities, Ahnberg said.
“We are very inclusive,” Ahnberg said of his employer’s hiring policy.
“We believe that our employee workforce should reflect our customers out in the world.”
The 150 backpacks were donated to Adelante by Tropicana employees who wanted to help the children get a good send-off to school this year, said Ortiz, who couldn’t stop smiling as she watched the children get their gifts.
“It’s very exciting for me,” Ortiz said. “I know some of these children wouldn’t have them otherwise.”
The children also got a rare chance to be entertained by a live performer, Spaghetti the Clown, who sometimes works for Circus Sarasota. Spaghetti is Marcelo Perez, 53, who is from Spain.
There were plenty of smiling faces and laughter as Perez juggled bowling pins and put clown noses on little girls in a show that ran about 45 minutes.
“These kids are never exposed to clowns and you don’t see them laugh much,” said Esperanza Gamboa, director of the Farmworker Education and Services Program.
Richard Dymond, Herald reporter, can be reached at 748-0411, ext. 6686.