La Puente girls get new shoes, backpacks

By Richard Irwin, Staff Writer

Local companies gathered Friday to help low-income girls get ready for the new school year in Rowland Unified. The generous gifts included new shoes, backpacks, school supplies and haircuts.

More than 300 students from Villa Corta, Hurley and Northam elementary schools were selected by school staff for the sixth annual Aldabella Scarpa Giveback Event.

The Covina shoe designer started the event as a way of encouraging young women in low-income areas.

“We want these young girls to have an amazing, positive experience and not allow circumstances in their lives to create limits,” said co-founder Monica Gonzales. “We want to show them that our community supports them and we want them to dream big.”

Gonzales and her sister, Ann Marie Smith, went to school at Villa Corta and wanted to do something special for the La Puente school. So six years ago, they began giving a new pair of shoes to deserving students.

Over the years, the event has continued to grow as more sponsors joined the ranks. California Credit Union provides new backpacks filled with school supplies. Other sponsors include Walmart, Global Processing System, Krispy Kreme, Starbucks and Stater Brothers.

Free haircuts were given by Supercuts of West Covina, helped by OMG Hair Accessories.

“The part I like the best is the kids’ smiles,” said Villa Corta Principal John Martinez. “It shows our students that lots of people in our community support them.”

Martinez will welcome 525 students in transitional kindergarten to sixth grade on Monday, when Rowland Unified begins the new school year. The young women will have everything they need to start school.

Families flocked around four tables filled with craft activities courtesy of Home Depot in Industry. The Cake Mamas from Glendora were very popular, giving out their award-winning cupcakes. The backpacks even included coupons for free food from Taco Nazo in La Puente.

Sara Posadas, 12, of La Puente loves the five pairs of shoes she received while attending Villa Corta. Now, she was helping her 8-year-old sister Johana get ready for the fourth grade.

“I was always excited to get new shoes and a backpack,” Sara recalled. “Now my sister is excited too.”

The Romero sisters from Northam Elementary agreed. Dayanara, 9, and Jennesse, 6, were both loaded down with their new shoes and backpacks.

“Their family says this is a big help for them,” translated Principal Martinez.

For the sisters, they incorporated the donation as part of their business model. Smith and Monica Gonzales design shoes for their Covina boutique Aldabella Scarpa at 832 N. Grand Ave. The company donates a pair of “I Matter” tennis shoes to disadvantaged youths for every set sold in stores. The shoes retail for $42.

The sisters say their great-grandfather was a shoe designer in Mexico. He passed his craft on to their grandfather and father.

“They were both cobblers in Monterey, Mexico,” Gonzales explained. “So we always knew the importance of quality shoes.”

The Spanish-speaking women grew up in La Puente, where they learned the importance of education in the Rowland Unified schools. Smith became a educator, serving 24 years as a teacher and administrator.

“It was hard starting a new business during the recession, but our company has grown slowly on-line at,” Gonzales said. “Today, we employ 10 people, who handle sales of more than $500,000 a year.”

And the Covina company recently added an clothing line to its inventory.

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