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Food caravan feeds thousands in Yuma
In Yuma County, 6,232 people won't have to worry about being hungry for the next several days thanks to the Americans Feeding Americans Emergency Caravan.
Three large semi-trucks stuffed with 1,200 boxes of food and toiletries parked just outside the gates of Crossroads Mission midday Wednesday. The food boxes were distributed to the needy by nearly 100 volunteers.
A large line stretched 40 vehicles long for much of the time as they waited patiently to receive their allotment of food.
"We are working with agencies, missions, food banks and churches to find those people who are in need because of the economy," said Susan Ojeil, major donor representative for Feed the Children, the international nonprofit organization in charge of the caravan.
"Every city we have gone to there is a great need, so we are going to continue this throughout the entire United States. This is our ninth (city) and the next one due up is Philadelphia. We are zigzagging all over because the need is great."
The boxes contained enough food to supplement a family for a week, personal care items and Avon products.
"If you can't afford food for your family, you probably are going to have a tough time buying shampoo, food, toothpaste and a toothbrush so we are helping out with that, too."
Gail Keyser, one of the recipients, was happy to get the help.
"I recently lost my children and I'm having to make it on my own without my husband, so I'm in need of assistance right now. I heard about this through my peer support specialist at Community Intervention Associates. This will definitely help me out."
Keyser said she has had to worry about where the next meal was going to come from in the past. "Yeah there were times that I did."
Barbara Rochester, special events and public relations director for Crossroads Mission, was on scene to oversee the process.
"We are working with 21 agencies here in our community," she said. "We are focusing on the people who fall between the cracks to make sure that they have enough. We have agencies who are coming in to pick up for their groups or the homeless who don't have transportation and for churches that are delivering to homes."
Jeronimo Soliz, of American Legion Post 56, was on hand to pick up the boxes for area veterans who couldn't make it on their own. He has noticed the demand for help skyrocketing with the downturn in the economy.
"Lines are getting longer and longer and longer. All walks of life are coming, and it is going to be worse as the economy gets worse."
Soliz said he didn't mind waiting in the long line.
"This is one of the best things that has ever happened around here, and we thank everybody for what they are doing, especially for the vets."
Ojeil said it is the caravan's mission to help others.
"We want to help children and their families, and it is just a shame this is happening in our own backyard in such a large volume the way it is. A lot of the people here had jobs six months ago and are looking and can't find anything. The poverty here is great and so we are trying to bring a little relief. Maybe now they won't have to worry about going to the market to buy groceries and can maybe pay that water bill or that electric bill."
Ojeil said the high number of cars lined up to receive aid was not unusual.
"When they say the economy is getting better, I say where? Because this is what we see, line after line after line of people coming to take advantage of this opportunity. I don't know where the economy is getting better, but every time one of these food drops is done, it just makes you feel like you really, really did something that day, and that is what Feed the Children is here to do, feed folks that are down on their luck and help them out."
Rochester was very pleased Yuma was chosen as a stop for the caravan.
"I would just like to thank Feed the Children for choosing Yuma County and helping all the people who are between jobs right now and just need a hand up. It has been well done and organized and we appreciate their support for our community. We are honored that we were chosen for this event."
For more information about Feed the Children or to donate, log on to feedthechildren.org.