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Phoenix Union HS District delivering groceries, clothes to low-income families

“On Saturday morning I got an email forwarded to me and it was a mother whose shelves were completely empty."

PHOENIX — Those who were living in crisis before the coronavirus are facing all-new challenges now. Thankfully, there are members of the community who are stepping up to help.

While schools across Arizona sit quiet, closing down is not an option for the family and community engagement team at the Phoenix Union High School District.

“We’ve encountered families that during this crisis – because they were already living paycheck to paycheck – are even in more vulnerable situations," said Cyndi Tercero, the manager of the team.

Nearly 90% of students in the district qualify for free lunches, according to Superintendent Chad Gestson. Students and their families rely on Tercero's team now more than ever before.

“Even before this crisis, our families, many of whom already lived in crisis, and so right now it is extremely important that we get out into the community," Gestson said.

Since the start of the coronavirus outbreak, Tercero has been hearing firsthand how it has impacted low-income families.

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In one case, Tercero said a woman used nearly all of her remaining money to take a bus to the grocery store only to find empty shelves. She couldn't afford to get to other stores, so she went home empty-handed.

“On Saturday morning I got an email forwarded to me and it was a mother whose shelves were completely empty," Tercero said.

That's where the district's team steps in to help.

“We just went and delivered that morning because I just knew I wouldn’t be able to get through the day and I’m gonna cry because we had this family in desperate need," Tercero said.

Every day, they are connecting with dozens of families and asking them exactly what they need. They are able to provide anything from groceries to toiletries to clothing.

“We heard from a student who got a job at a grocery store who needs clothes, so we were able to get their sizes, shop for them in the boutique and make sure that student has additional clothing to wear," Tercero said.

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More than a hundred families per day have been showing up in person to pick up their personalized bags. But for those who don't have the luxury of picking up the goods in person, Tercero's team hits the road.

“We’re doing anywhere from 30 to 60 deliveries a day," Tercero said.

The team is driving to families well beyond their district leaving each order at a family's doorstep. 

In a time of such uncertainty, this team is gifting their community a sense of security. But the gratitude they get in return is perhaps worth even more.

“That’s what’s keeping us motivated," Tercero said.

Right now, the Phoenix Union High School District has enough supplies to support their families, but as the pandemic continues, they expect the needs of the community to grow, so they are accepting donations from anyone who is in a position to help.

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