Outpouring of support for family orphaned by drug violence
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Corina Knoll’s Column One article about Adali Gutierrez, a 20-year-old raising his four younger siblings in El Monte after their parents’ shooting deaths, has prompted an outpouring of support from Times readers.
More than 300 people have called or written to ask how they can help the family. Checks have arrived blindly in the mail -- several have been for $100; one was for $5.
The offers have included money, gift cards, groceries, a Thanksgiving or Christmas meal, rent payments, computers and Internet access.
The coordinator of the L.A. County Adopt-a-Family Program wanted to match the Gutierrezes with donors for the holidays. An interior designer said she had a storage unit full of furniture that the family was welcome to. A 16-year-old wrote that she was grateful for family and wanted to help.
The director of a Catholic elementary school offered a spot for the youngest Gutierrez, 5-year-old Roxanna. Mother-daughter psychologists offered counseling. Others have offered tutoring, mentoring or simply encouragement.
For Adali’s facial scars, the result of the shooting that killed his parents, doctors offered consultations. He has an appointment Monday with Dr. Timothy Miller, chief of plastic and reconstructive surgery at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center. Miller also is the chief surgeon for a UCLA group that treats wounded troops.
Many who wrote were modest, saying they weren’t wealthy but wanted to share what they did have: “I can’t imagine kids celebrating holidays such as Christmas without their parents and the traditions that come along with it. I am not wealthy in any sense but I would like to send this family gifts for Christmas to make their holiday a little more merrier.”
“I may not have much, but I want to help. I’m a father and husband. We took in a ward, my ‘new son,’ we call him. And we too do without luxuries. But we can help a little. Let us know how.”
“I’m a student and work part-time to support myself through college, yet I would like to help in some way. It won’t be much, but me and my family have been through financial difficulties ourselves, and I know it will make a difference.”
Others intended to donate to the family in lieu of gifts for themselves:
“How can I help? I’d like to send them $100. How would I do that? I’ve told friends and family they can forget about Christmas gifts this year -- we all have more than enough. I’m giving gifts in their name. This will be for my in-laws.”
“We have an insurance agency in Pasadena, and traditionally we do a gift exchange at our annual Christmas party. I thought it would a good idea to make a donation to the family in lieu of the exchange.”
Some had deeply personal reasons for wanting to help:
“I am a licensed clinical social worker and a single mom. This past January, my only child, my 18-year-old daughter, died tragically. If the five siblings you wrote about do not have family or friends to spend Thanksgiving with, I would like to extend a heartfelt invitation for them to come to my home for Thanksgiving dinner.”
“My husband and I are raising my youngest brother’s four children and know the emotional and financial struggles they face. But I would not change my decision if I had to do it over again. If possible, I would love to offer them a donation to make their holidays a little bit less stressful.”
“I was touched by your story on the Gutierrez family and was wondering if there was any way I could help with tutoring the kids one or two days a week if they need that or are open to that. My husband and I both come from working class, single-parent homes. My husband had to grow up fast too, at the age of 19, when his mother lost several fingers while cleaning a poultry machine at her job. My husband had to drop out of college, get a full time job to take care of his mom and two younger sisters. As he said, it just had to be done.”
There also were thanks to Knoll for sharing the story:
“These are stories we need to see more of. Actual things like this that are happening in our own communities. A co-worker read your story and was moved by it and told me about it. And I was also moved. We wanted to see if we can get our co-workers and friends to cooperate, if we would be able to give this family some sort of Christmas this year like gifts and food?”
“I happened to be in California on business this weekend and just read your powerful human-interest story on the Gutierrez family. As a former prosecutor and judge in Chicago, I have heard all the bad stories about how families fall apart. It’s about time someone explored the ways they are bound together. This young man is to be commended for stepping up and providing his siblings with a positive outlook for the future and a strong sense of connection, even in the toughest of times.”
The emailed offers left Adali Gutierrez “speechless,” a mentor to Adali told Knoll.
Knoll said that the flood of responses had been “pretty incredible so far and totally unexpected,” and that it left her “teary-eyed.”
The San Gabriel Valley Conservation Corps, where Adali Gutierrez works, is collecting the donations and coordinating the offers of assistance for the family.
-- Deirdre Edgar