Local businesses and nonprofit organizations helped less-fortunate children days before the school year kicked off
By RODOLFO ROMAN
Special to The Miami Herald
The recession has been a tough time for the Pavon family.
Dad Yitzhak Pavon, a mechanic, has been jobless for almost two years and mom Awilda Pavon is the only source of income for now.
So as the Pembroke Pines couple’s two children prepared to enter the classroom for the first time this school year, it has been economically difficult to buy supplies for the youngsters.
“It is hard,” said Awilda Pavon, an accountant.
Luckily for the Pavons and other local families, the nonprofit Young Dreams Community Outreach, with the support of local officials and businesses, held a back-to-school event Saturday at Juan Pablo Duarte Park, 2800 NW 17th Ave., in Allapattah.
More than 600 book bags, school supplies such as index cards and folders and over 750 books were distributed to less fortunate children.
“Doing these things help so much,” said Pavon, who drove from Broward with her family. “The littlest thing like a pencil, crayon or ruler is a blessing.”
Searching through her new book bag Pavon’s daughter Andrea, 9, said she felt prepared for schoolwork.
“I feel happy because I got all the school supplies I needed,” said Andrea, who received everything from a Pokeman handbook to crayons and a pencil sharpener.
The event attracted more than 500 people who enjoyed free lemonade, hot dogs, arepas, tutoring, raffles and games.
Young Dreams Community Outreach executive director Jordana Zarut, 25, was inspired to host the event after attending a Christmas drive last year. The effort hits close to home.
“There are a lot of parents who are without a job and can’t afford school supplies,” said Zarut, who lives in the area and is a single mother.
The nonprofit, which started last year, had dropped boxes for its donate-a-book drive throughout Miami, where more than 750 books were collected. The book bags were donated by Miami Commissioner Willy Gort. The organization held fundraisers to collect funds to pay for the school supplies.
Several local businesses came out to support, like Midtown Miami barbershop Upper Kutz, which offered free haircuts to children in a makeshift barbershop.
“This generation here needs young professionals to show them the way,” said Rey Agnew, owner of Upper Kutz. “It is a way to show them the different opportunities that are out there.”
Comstock Elementary fourth-grader Alexis Rivera said he looked forward to his new haircut.
“I want to look nice for the girls,” he said with a smile.
Children also participated in a sack race, dance-off contest, CPR training and a fashion show on a makeshift runway. Donated prizes like boxing gloves and school supply bags were raffled.
Despite the economic crunch, there are several ways to help families in need, said Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado.
“We need to send a message that the government is uniting the private sector to give something back to the population and give them hope that they are not alone,” he said. “We want to let them know that they have access to a book bag that there are services available without using the government’s money.”
Not only did youngsters enjoy music and food, but they got to learn about careers. City of Miami police and fire departments allowed children to step inside the vehicles.
Gabriel Garmendia, 8, won second place in a dancing contest that took place on a stage. He won a movie ticket.
“It feels awesome,” said Gabriel, who was sweating after dancing under the sun.
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