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Over 2,000 Sweaters Help Students Stay Warm This Winter



Crowds of students at Biola Pershing Elementary School received sweaters and shirts early Wednesday morning with help from Granville Homes and the Assistance League of Fresno. (GV Wire/Liz Juarez)
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Central Unified school administrators, community organizations and leaders arrived bright and early this Wednesday morning at Biola Pershing Elementary School to help students stay warm this winter.

During the annual Warm for Winter event, elementary students lined up to receive and try on purple sweaters and spirit wear shirts.

Serena Dohi, executive director for the district’s nonprofit foundation, says there was a great need for sweaters this winter and thanked continual donor Granville Homes and first time donor the Assistance League of Fresno for their support.

(GV Wire Publisher Darius Assemi is president of Granville Homes)

“We want to continue to grow and have that instant relief for those families that need it the most, and especially this year as we continue to deal with the effects of the pandemic,” said Dohi.

Charitable Donations Help Students Stay Warm and Safe

Granville Homes donated over $66,000 dollars along with actual jackets, sweaters and face masks.

For 17 years, Granville Homes has supported the foundation’s program, beginning at it’s inception. A total of 12,000 sweaters and jackets have been donated throughout the years.

Darius Assemi, President and CEO of Granville Homes speaks to students at Biola Pershing during Central Unified’s Warm for Winter event on Wednesday. (GV Wire/Liz Juarez)

Darius Assemi, the company’s president, offered comments on the importance of supporting education.

“We are proud to have partnered up with Central Unified to help bring some warmth this winter to our kids,” said Assemi. “In the words of Nelson Mandela, we know that education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world. It’s incredible to represent Granville Homes through this partnership for many, many years.”

An additional contribution of $55,000 dollars from the Assistance League of Fresno helped double the number of sweaters that were distributed to students this year – and provided extra clothing to 200 students.

Kim Shehadey, the league’s president, said one of the things her group loves to do is give away free clothing through their signature program Operation School Bell.

“We’ve been around for about 40 plus years in the community,” said Ann Fugelsang, the group’s vice president. “Were here to help where we can and when we can – we want to make sure that our money goes as far as it can go to the people who need it in our community.”

In total, 2,100 sweaters were donated this year and will be distributed across many of the schools in the district, said Dohi.

Kim Shehadey, with the Assistance League of Fresno, and Granville Homes President Darius Asssemi hand out sweaters to students at Central Unified’s annual Warm for Winter event. (GV Wire/Liz Juarez)

Donations Were A Huge Relief After Price Increases

Dohi says there was a great need for sweaters this winter and the donations made huge impact on families in need after this year’s increase in costs.

A total of 2,100 purple sweaters were given to students within Central Unified School District with the help of Granville Homes and the Assistance League of Fresno. (GV Wire/Liz Juarez)

“That’s another thing we had to deal with in trying to get 2,100 sweaters before the last day of school was not easy,” said Dohi. “There’s extra freight charges, there’s extra charges for colors, for everything and were dealing with that post pandemic, and there’s still pandemic effects as well.”

Dohi said migrant families in transition needed even more support this year.

“It’s incredible that there is still a need in our community to provide clothing which is really one of the most basic elements and needs for our kids,” said Assemi.

Central Foundation Hopes To Keep Growing and Giving

“We’ve fully grown from less than 100 students to 300, to 700  to today, where were giving out over 2,100 sweaters to our students that are most in need within Central Unified,” said Dohi.

As executive director for the second year in a row, Dohi hopes to see growth in the program especially as the community and the school district continues to rapidly grow with the addition of a new high school that just opened and a new elementary school opening up soon.

“With that growth we need to support this community a lot more and that means not forgetting about our smaller schools like Biola Pershing,” said Dohi.

Liz Juarez joined GV Wire in July, 2021 as a Digital News Producer. She has experience working for publications around the Central Valley including the Clovis Roundup, Porterville Recorder and Hanford Sentinel. While in college, she interned for Mountain West Athletics and served as Outreach Chair for the Fresno State Radio and Television Digital News Association (RTDNA). Liz earned a bachelor's degree in Media Communications and Journalism at Fresno State and a master's degree in Communications from Arizona State University. In her down time, she enjoys reading, drawing and staying active by playing basketball, taking trips to the coast and visiting national parks. You can contact Liz at