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Girl Scouts open their hearts for a needy family of farmworkers

Wednesday, December 22, 2010   (0 Comments)
Posted by: jennifer punch
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A group of Girl Scouts from Hialeah collected a van load of clothes, toys, food, baby essentials and more for the children of Florida City farmworkers.


Aracely Lopez, 7, wished for just one thing this Christmas: Lip gloss.

Hannah Montana lip gloss, to be precise.

So the second-grader at Laura Saunders Elementary School in Homestead was overwhelmed when she saw the bicycle brought to her Friday by Hialeah's Girl Scout Troop 436, which collected clothes, diapers, food, shoes, school supplies, toys and blankets for Aracely's family.

The family had been nominated for The Miami Herald Wish Book by the director of ARC Project Thrive in Florida City, a child-care center and school where her 16-month-old brother, who has Down syndrome, has learned to crawl and say a few words.

The skinny, shy girl with long, dark hair and rectangular eyeglasses also got a My Little Pony toy, dolls and several stuffed animals, a play yoga set, a Disney Princess Yahtzee game, a Leapster educational game and a Christmas bear that sings Feliz Navidad, which amused her little brother Eduardito.

Speechless, Aracely didn't have to be told twice to take her seat on the purple and pink Huffy with the hibiscus flowers. (There was a helmet in a holiday gift bag nearby).

``I don't know how,'' she finally whispered.

``Don't worry, honey. We will teach you,'' said Maria Barros, director of ARC, which is partly funded by the Miami-Dade Children's Trust and where 90 percent of the students have special needs.

The bike was purchased by Angela Vivanco's uncle after the 7-year-old had a meltdown when she didn't win a raffle in Miami Lakes -- because she wanted the bike to give to Aracely.

Angela ``would not stop crying,'' her mother said.

``I already have a bike,'' Angela said. ``But I really wanted it for [Aracely] so bad.''

The 25 girls in the scout troop emptied their closets, went shopping for toys and essentials, and got their families to donate food and other items like wipes, diapers and laundry detergent.

Mom Lisa Espinosa said the girls had asked her to find a family they could help this holiday season.

When she read the Wish Book story about Maria Lopez and her family, she knew they would be the perfect choice.

``It's one thing to buy a toy and throw it in a box. We really wanted it to be hands-on,'' Espinosa said.

``And here there was a little girl their same age. It was something they could relate to.''

Nicole Espinosa, 8, could not stop smiling and jumping around. ``We got so much stuff,'' she said giddily. ``We got clothes and shoes and even accessories.''

``We worked together as a team,'' said Kaitlyn Hackett, 8.

``I feel different,'' said Melissa Figueroa, 7. ``It was so amazing to see her on that bike.''

Monica Rodriguez, Melissa's mom, said the exercise was important because ``it shows them how to share. That it's not just about receiving. That they have to give, too.''

Barros, who nominates a family or two every year for The Herald's holiday Wish Book series, said Eduardito's mother, Maria Lopez, impressed her with her dedication to her son.

``She works hard and does whatever it takes to bring him every day to the center so he can be in the best environment for his development,'' Barro said. ``She really goes without to give to her kids.''

Lopez, who has picked okra, pumpkins and beans depending on the season, says there is not enough work because of the dry spell. ``All the little plants died.'' Her husband, Bonifacio, still picks pumpkins seven days a week, but they are without the additional $200 or so she would bring in each week.

``It's a lot of difference,'' the shy, small-framed woman with a long ponytail said. Having come from Oaxaca, Mexico, about eight years ago, she went to ARC when Eduardito was still in the hospital, crying because doctors had told her that her son had a condition she did not understand and that he would not be like other kids.

``I was so scared because I never saw a child like that, with that,'' she said. ``They said he would be like that forever, and I didn't know what that meant.''

Barros comforted her. ``I told her that it would be all right and that with some therapy, he could learn to walk and talk and play with other kids.''

Eduardito has made progress. He is crawling, can say a few words and knows his name.

``He recognizes my voice when I talk,'' his mother said. ``That makes me so happy.''

When Barros first asked Maria Lopez what she really needed for the holidays, she asked only for soap and diapers.

Pressed, she acknowledged a deep wish, as humble but not as simple as her daughter's: Separate beds for her children. Right now, the four sleep on two twin mattresses pushed together in their small apartment in the migrant camp.

The day after the story appeared, someone donated beds and a car seat. Others brought developmental toys for Eduardito and, for Aracely, Barbie dolls.

The Scouts also gave her a $200 Visa gift card she can use for whatever needs are not filled. Mom Espinosa said $100 came from the troop fund and $100 from the Hialeah Moose Lodge.

The response has been great, Barros said.

People are still coming to help the Lopez family: While the Girl Scouts loaded a van with their donations, another mom and her two daughters arrived with sheets and towels, clothes, and pots and pans.

Maria Lopez is grateful: ``I didn't know people would give so much.''

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