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Pico Rivera Foundation Offers Extra Support for a City With Growing Pains

August 02, 1987|MARY LOU FULTON | Times Staff Writer

PICO RIVERA — A civic group calls the Chamber of Commerce requesting a recommendation for a good place to hold a luncheon meeting. The group is given the name of the city's only restaurant that can host a meeting of more than 30 people.

If that's unacceptable, the group could do what the chamber and other service organizations do: go to the Holiday Inn in Montebello.

The situation illustrates a problem that the Pico Rivera Foundation wants to solve with its first project--the construction of a multipurpose community center.

The need for a foundation-type organization became apparent to Zoe Taylor, the chamber executive director, who for several years has fielded calls from civic groups. So she and John H. Clark, who was president of the chamber two years ago, started working to set up a foundation.

'There Isn't Adequate Space'

Clark, now foundation president, says it's frustrating to have to send people out of town but that "many times for what they want, there isn't adequate space. . . . We'd sure like to keep them at home."

The tax-exempt private foundation, formed in November, 1986, operates out of the Chamber of Commerce office and reimburses the chamber for its telephone and clerical expenses. So far, the foundation has raised about $8,000, Taylor said.

Foundation organizers hope to expand their fund with an inaugural fund-raiser Aug. 22. It will feature a performance by the Voces de Chapala choir and the Ballet Folklorico Jalisco, both from Mexico. Admission is $10 to the show, scheduled for 7 p.m. And like other big Pico Rivera events, it will be held out of town--at the Whittier High School Auditorium.

In addition to the community center project, Taylor and Clark want the foundation to establish an educational grant program. The chamber also has received calls from high school students accepted to internships or invited to athletic competitions out of state who were unable to participate because they lacked money, Clark said. The foundation's first grant was made in the spring to a high school student who needed $75 for a trip to the state Capitol, he said.

"These are very valuable experiences for young people," said Clark, a veterinarian and veterinary orthopedic consultant who has worked in Pico Rivera for 26 years. "One of them is going to be me sometime in the future."

Assistance for Senior Citizens

Another area of interest to the foundation is providing services to senior citizens, who make up 20% of the city's population. Clark is concerned that many senior citizens--especially the city's approximately 300 shut-ins--are don't know about help available to them, and he wants the foundation to serve as a clearinghouse for this sort of information.

The foundation's 12-member board of directors is considering developing a formula by which a certain percentage of donations would be devoted to grants and the remainder to the building fund, Taylor said.

Having a foundation is especially important to Pico Rivera because it has no property tax, Taylor said, meaning the city must rely solely on sales taxes to support itself. It does not have the money to build a community center, she said.

"Their hands are tied financially," she said. "This would be a great way to give some assistance."

Mayor Garth Gardner praised the foundation's efforts, calling the proposal for a center "a dramatic idea that would generate loyalty and well-being in the community . . . . The business community's having someplace to congregate on its own is a very worthwhile cause."

Need for Catering Services

However, law prohibits the contribution of public funds to a private foundation, so the city can only offer moral support, Gardner said.

The city does have some meeting space available at Smith Park and its cultural center, but those places lack kitchen facilities, Gardner said. For years, city officials have been trying to attract a full-service hotel to Pico Rivera that could provide catering, but there have been no solid offers. A community center could satisfy that need, he said.

Clark emphasized that the community center is in the earliest planning phases. He said the conception calls for a building of about 5,000 square feet that would include meeting rooms, a food service area and a patio for outdoor functions. The chamber would rent office space there and manage the center.

The entrance area and walls would be used to display work by local artists, and the center might become the base for the city's History and Heritage Society, whose collection of "historical significance is stored here and there around town," he said. Antique furnishings rescued from the 90-year-old Reese House, demolished last year, could be incorporated into the center's design. Clark estimated the project will cost about $500,000.

And if the foundation can build a community center, its next project will be a civic center. A facility of that size would enable the city to hold the annual Miss Pico Rivera pageant here instead of in Whittier, and it would mean the foundation would not have to go out of town to host its own fund-raiser, Taylor said.

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