A group of about 30 volunteers, representing five grass-roots organizations, got together Tuesday night in Guadalupe to pack and prepare nearly 100 backpacks full of school supplies for children in need.

The bags will go to kids, ages 4 to 18, that attend two learning centers in Guadalupe. Volunteers from Arizona Neighborhood Transformation, From Gangs to Jobs, Learning with Play, the Guadalupe Learning Center and a Bible study group from Mountain Park Community Church in Ahwatukee Foothills were on hand to help prepare the backpacks. All 100 bags were filled within a half-hour.

The bags were donated to the group by members of Mountain Park Community Church and the Bible study group collected supplies to fill them.

“It’s awesome to see what churches can do when they pull together,” said Leelle Schifferer, a Mountain Park Community Church member. “It’s awesome to see God’s people coming together to bless other people.”

Schifferer said Mountain Park Community Church was told about the need by Pastor Natividad Mendoza, founder of From Gangs to Jobs. Mendoza has been holding classes for From Gangs to Jobs students in Guadalupe across from the Guadalupe Learning Center and has been finding ways to volunteer with them to further their mission of giving all kids better education and keeping them away from gangs.

The Guadalupe Learning Center had 59 students in their summer program and organizers of the center expressed a need to get donations so the kids could get supplies for the coming school year. When Mendoza was able to get 100 backpacks donated to the cause, they worked with Arizona Neighborhood Transformation to locate another learning center in the area that could also benefit from the donation.

“Without donations, without volunteers, we wouldn’t be able to do this,” said Marina Gonzales, director of the Guadalupe Learning Center. “This is a small space and our entire rent comes from donations.”

Gonzales is at the learning center all day, every day. She feeds her students breakfast and lunch. They take any child into their program and do it all with no federal or state funding. The donation of the backpacks means they can send each of their students home ready to begin the school year off right.

The project also benefitted From Gangs to Jobs students. The nonprofit helps former gang members, and anyone struggling to get their life in order, to find a job and opportunities to bring value to their life. From Gangs to Jobs students were on hand Tuesday night to help fill the bags.

“I wanted to be here,” said Lupita Marquez, who was recently released from jail and has been attending classes with Mendoza. “It feels good. It’s cool that I’m here to participate too and my kids will benefit from it.”

In all, 93 kids in Guadalupe will be given backpacks.

For more information on From Gangs to Jobs, visit www.fromgangs2jobs.com. For more information on the learning centers in Guadalupe and to find ways to help, visit www.azneighborhoodtransformation.com.

• Contact writer: (480) 898-7914 or ahurtado@ahwatukee.com.

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