Israel Mena, five (left); Catalina Hernandez, 20 months; and Patricia Amaya, four, collect baskets filled with goodies at the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services’ Palmdale office Tuesday.

PALMDALE — The Easter Bunny made an early stop Tuesday at the Palmdale offices of the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services, where a bevy of baskets awaited distribution to area families.

The more than 200 baskets brightly decorated and filled with goodies were the product of a cooperative effort with the Assistance League of Antelope Valley and Journey Church in Lancaster, Sam’s Club and the department staff at the Palmdale office.

“This was a team effort. It came from their hearts, to go to the families we serve,” said Assistant Re-

gional Administrator Nan-cy Ramirez, who helped coordinate the effort.

A few families were on hand to pick out their baskets on Tuesday morning, while the majority will be delivered by social workers to the families in their case loads during the week.

“It means a lot. I’ve got a lot of help from the Palmdale office,” said Mindy Mengoza, joining the celebration Tuesday and collecting baskets for five-year-old Israel Mena, Catalina Hernandez, 20 months and five-month-old Bruno Hernandez.

This is the third year the Palmdale office has held the basket giveaway,.

“I’m excited to take part in it,” social worker John Austin said. The family that represented his first case as a social worker was on hand to collect baskets for their children.

The Assistance League of Antelope Valley has taken on the project in its mission to serve children and families, member Susan Abrams said.

The organization decorated and filled 75 baskets, much as they do for other service projects, such as kits for sexual assault survivors and homeless veterans and support for area schools.

“We have wonderful membership,” Abrams said.

Beyond the baskets in a conference room for the celebration, an additional 30 baskets were with the office’s emergency response group, ready to help brighten the day of families who are initially contacted by the department, Supervising Children’s Social Worker Deborah Keyser said.

“We love to have these events. Every year it’s a labor of love,” she said.

In addition to Easter baskets, the office presents backpacks to families in time for the start of school each year and Halloween costumes in late October.

“It’s important for the community to see what we do. Really good stuff comes out of this office,” Ramirez said.

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