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Donations needed for 'Latino Turkey Day'

As shoppers begin to mull over holiday gifts, a group of community activists is focused on ensuring that Christmas will be a "turkey day" for schoolchildren in need.

"Latino Turkey Day" is an effort to help children at four elementary schools that receive federal Title I funds for low-income students, said Frank Cordova, director of the Utah Coalition of La Raza.

"It helps the whole school," Cordova said. "We want Latinos, for the most part, to realize they need to chip in and help their own. Many of these schools are heavily populated with Latino kids."

The turkeys can be dropped off Dec. 1 to 17 from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Backman Elementary School, 601 N. 1500 West. The Christmas turkeys will be distributed to families in need at Backman, Franklin, Washington, and Jackson elementaries.

"Last year we gave out more than 2,000 turkeys. That's 2,000 families," Cordova said. "I hope we do as well or better this year."

Backman is participating for the first time, helping to co-sponsor the annual turkey drive, which is led by Utah Coalition of La Raza and Southwest Voter Registration.

Sharon Chavez, secretary at Backman, said most of her school's 580 students are Latino, and there are also a significant number of refugee students. Getting help from social service agencies can be a challenge for those who don't speak English, she said.

"Our population is a very low income, poverty stricken school," she said.

Cordova said at all four schools, families — many immigrants or refugees — don't necessarily know how to access social service agencies that provide holiday help.

"Many, many of those folks will not use any of the system (services)," he said. "People think they are out there trying to take advantage of the system . . . most of these families won't go to those situations."


E-mail: dbulkeley@desnews.com