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July 25, 2006 > Shopping spree for local youth

Shopping spree for local youth

by Jessamyn Edra

One hundred kids, one Saturday morning, and one step closer to a successful school year-this is the vision that drives Mervyns' ChildSpree and George A. Pacheco, Jr., of the Rotary Club of Hayward. With all the supplies needed and kids not ready for summer to end just yet, going back to school can be a stressful time for any family. For underprivileged families, this annual stress is multiplied tenfold.

Mervyns at Southland Mall and Hayward Rotary, among other service organizations, will help alleviate that stress for 100 kids on Saturday, Aug. 5 with the ChildSpree program. Through this program, local children are treated to a hot breakfast, a backpack with supplies, a $100 shopping spree at Mervyns, and a post-spree party.

At least, this is what Pacheco hopes for the event. Pacheco has been the ChildSpree event chairperson for seven years now and his expertise and enthusiasm have reached new peaks with his goal of helping 100 kids.

ChildSpree is a nationwide program that "has donated $17 million and served more than 170,000 children," according to the Mervyns website. Each year, Mervyns stores will partner up with a local nonprofit organization to give children what it takes to go back to school with a confident smile. Mervyns will provide a 15 percent discount during the spree and donate a certain amount of money-this year, $2,500-that the nonprofit will match.

As stated in the Mervyns ChildSpree 2006 Nonprofit Planning Guide, "Each store and its nonprofit partner will establish a goal to serve 25 children with $100 each for shopping." The Rotary Club of Hayward aspires to go above and beyond this minimum goal, providing the money and volunteers not just for 25 children, but 75 local kids.

The youths have already been screened and selected through The Kids' Breakfast Club of Hayward and The Salvation Army. Their grades range from kindergarten to high school seniors; although according to Pacheco, most of the children will be no older than the average fourth grader.

This dedication to young learners is what Karen Kenyon, department supervisor of Support at Southland Mervyns, says rallies the community behind the event. "It really reinforces education right at the very beginning," says Kenyon.

Free from anxiety about having the right outfit or the necessary school supplies, children can then "focus on their studies," Kenyon continued, "All of this has an effect on the community down the road."

Yet one does not need to look far down the road to see the positive effects of the Mervyns ChildSpree. As Pacheco says, "Everybody gets involved-the whole community, everyone works together." From corporate donors to volunteers, ChildSpree brings out a sense of community pride and caring.
Indeed, many people go into making this event a success. For example, "We usually have the police and the fire department there," says Pacheco. The police department will give a D.A.R.E. presentation, while the fire department will do a show-and-tell. Local businesses like Longs Drugs will donate crayons, to put in each child's backpack.

A volunteer will accompany each child to help children with everything from finding the right sizes to making practical purchases.

Volunteers come from all over: Mervyns' employees, Hayward Rotarians, Kids' Breakfast Club volunteers, Chabot College students, St. Rose Hospital workers, and anyone 16 or older that is willing to help.

Pacheco doesn't seem too worried about finding enough volunteers. "Once you start doing it, you get attached to the kids," he says simply. ChildSpree has far-reaching consequences for both the kids, who are the direct beneficiaries, and for the people behind the event, who learn the power of a couple hours on a Saturday to make a difference.

As Kenyon, former volunteer turned event-coordinator, says, "I feel like I'm making a difference in my own community and I enjoy seeing the smiles on children's faces.  They get really excited." And with help from the community, these kids will have something grand to be excited about-not just a shopping spree, but an experience deeply rooted in a love for education and community values.

It's a way of really reaching the children in need and making sure that they are not forgotten and it's also a way of reaching others' hearts and making sure that the generosity of community spirit does not fall into languish. Kenyon said.

For more information about the Hayward ChildSpree, please contact George Pacheco at (510) 487-7008, ext. 101. If interested in donating, please make donations payable to "Hayward Rotary Foundation," at P.O. Box 629, Hayward, CA 94543. The deadline for contributions is Aug. 2.

For information about your local ChildSpree, please note the following:

Newark Mervyns is partnering with The Salvation Army and the Rotary clubs of Fremont and Newark. The Salvation Army will hold a pancake breakfast to raise money for the event on Saturday, July 29 from 7 to 11 a.m. at Beck's Steak & Seafood Restaurant, 36665 Cedar Blvd. in Newark. Tickets can be purchased at the door for $10.

Milpitas Mervyns is partnering with Kiwanis and Lions clubs. The Lions Club will have a food booth, selling ribs on a stick, at the Fremont Festival of the Arts on Aug. 5 and 6 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. in Central Fremont to replace the money already allotted for the event.

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