When Yanira Blanco and her mother lined up in front of the Fred Jordan Mission for free clothes Tuesday, the streets of Skid Row in downtown Los Angeles were dark and a 4.7 aftershock was about to rock Southern California.
The Blancos were still there nine hours later, at 10:30 a.m., among the first of 3,000 families who were given new pairs of shoes, clothes and haircuts at the mission's fourth annual back-to-school giveaway.
"I was scared about being out there," said 10-year-old Yanira as a hairstylist snipped her hair on the mission's second floor.
The wait was worth it, she said, admiring a new pair of black Reebok sneakers. In a bag beside her were her old tennis shoes.
This year, with growing numbers of young Angelenos in need of school supplies and other aid, Mission President Willie Jordan said the organization would be giving away 6,000 pairs of shoes this year--nearly twice the number of pairs donated to needy families last year.
"More and more people are losing jobs and there are many more needy people in Los Angeles today," said Jordan, widow of mission founder Fred Jordan. "I shudder to think what it's going to be like this winter."
Jordan's words rang true for 14-year-old Eswan Perez, whose mother lost her housekeeping job just months ago.
"She works very hard for us," said Eswan, who left his South Los Angeles home before 7 a.m. to get a place in line. "But I don't think I could have gotten these shoes now. It's kind of hard for us right now."
Volunteers have joined the mission staff for the two-day event, providing logistical support, handing out shoes and even devising new hairstyles. They will be working again from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. today at the mission, at Towne and 5th streets.
Hairdresser Richard Reid, one of the volunteers, trimmed Yanira Blanco's hair, snipping off about an inch as part of his effort to help out.
Reid, a student at Marinello Beauty School, said many of his fellow students--like the kids who came to get a free haircut--know what it's like to be down and out.
"To be able to give something back is important, at least to me," he said. "There are a lot of people out there who have nothing."
Linda Matthews and her four children were among those who benefited from that kind of attitude.
The family boarded a bus and left their South-Central home at 6 a.m. Almost six hours later, as temperatures rose and the line grew longer, they were still waiting. Her children were getting restless, but for Matthews, it was all worth it.
"It would cost me about $150 to get shoes for four children," she said, "and they probably wouldn't get shoes right now. Yes, this is worth it."