Mesa is sponsoring programs this holiday season to help families in need, including drives for donations of toys and food.
For many of the 730 students attending Longfellow Elementary School, this Christmas will not bring lots of toys and Christmas cheer. Many of the children come from families whose household incomes fall below the federal poverty guideline, community officials said.
"Longfellow is a Title 1 school, which means it receives federal assistance," said Patti Tracey, of the Mesa Prosecutor's Office. "Every child that attends school there qualifies for a free breakfast and a free lunch because of the family income."
The prosecutor's office and Mesa Police Department are sponsoring a program called the Christmas Angel Project, which will provide toys to the Longfellow students. This is the first year the program is taking place, Tracey said.
Donations of toys ranging from $5 to $10 are needed. Gift certificates of $25 to Wal-Mart, Target, and other storesalso are needed to helpLongfellow teachers who spend their own money on supplies for their classrooms, school officials said.
Volunteers will put together handmade fabric bags that will be handed out to students Dec. 19.
"Our goal is to get one toy for each child," Tracey said. "A faith-based organization has already said they would donate a package of underwear and a package of socks for each child. So hopefully each bag will have underwear, socks and a toy."
Donations can be dropped off between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. weekdays at the Neighborhood Economic Development Corporation, 567 W. 10th St. Donations are needed by Dec. 14.
The cityalso is hosting a free pancake breakfast 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. Saturday at Fire Station 214, 5950 E. Virginia St., to help the United Food Bank and other programs.
City Councilwoman Dina Higgins of District 5 is encouraging the community to meet with her at the breakfast to help raise donations for the city's needy, said Charlotte McDermott, council assistant.
Residents can discuss Mesa issues while donating to a good cause, McDermott said. Residents are asked to bring canned foods to the event which will be donated to the food bank.
Officials from several city departments will provide assistance and information to residents, McDermott said.