Families Receive Gifts From Labor Council

Food, Toys Distributed To Needy Families At Qualcomm Stadium

About 500 needy San Diego families received holiday food and toys Friday from the San Diego and Imperial Counties Labor Council and the United Way of San Diego.

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Turkeys, food bags, toys and bikes -- donated by workers and their unions -- went to families in which parents have lost jobs or are underemployed. The 24th annual distribution took place in the parking lot of Qualcomm Stadium.

Miguel Cesena and his five grandchildren showed up to Friday morning's event. The kids couldn't help but smile when they received their gift cards and toys.

Cesena says his grandchildren live with him in order to save money, but he suffered a big financial blow last year when he lost his home.

"It's been pretty tough," Cesena said.

The unemployment rate in San Diego County was 9.2 percent in November, meaning 145,500 people out of a workforce of around 1.6 million were without jobs, according to the state Economic Development Department.

Additionally, many economists believe the true number of unemployed people is higher since people who have given up looking for work are not counted in the official statistics.

A 2010 study by the United Way and the Center on Policy Initiatives shows at least 3 in 10 people in San Diego County do not earn enough to be self-sufficient.

"I think what we're seeing more and more of in San Diego County is really, the working poor. We have more and more people right below that line of even being middle class," said Lorena Gonzalez of the San Diego Labor Council.

She said that while unemployment remains a problem, "we're seeing a whole lot of underemployed" people, who might be working part-time or are the sole providers for large families. Christmas is a luxury for those getting by month-to-month."

Cesena is grateful for the food and toy drive, adding he is looking forward to a better 2012.

"I'm ready. I'm ready," Cesena said.

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