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Community News: Mid-City

PICO-UNION : Church Program Is a Safe Bet for Youths

July 17, 1994|GEOFF BOUCHER

The Rev. Carlos Paiva finds it difficult to get any desk work done these days. Instead of peering down a quiet parking lot, the pastor of Angelica Lutheran Church now looks out his window every afternoon to see exuberant youngsters playing basketball and volleyball.

"It's very hard to read," the Peruvian-born Paiva said over the din. With a broad smile, he added: "Isn't it wonderful?"

The church is hosting Angelican Safe Summer, a new youth program that provides area parents with a free place to take their children for supervised recreation, tutoring and seminars.

The program, modeled after the Safe Haven projects, is desperately needed, Director Martin Flores said. With few places for children to go after school in the densely populated neighborhood, he said, many wind up in front of a television or on a street corner.

"There's no real park around here for them, no libraries, no community pool, and the people who live here have real transportation problems," Flores said. "These kids need things to do."

The program is offering a variety of activities to its 170 participants. Children can play outdoor sports, learn martial arts, work with arts and crafts, use computers or take drama classes.

Flores said the program is also reaching out to parents through Tuesday and Thursday workshops on issues such as AIDS, family planning, first aid and parenting.

"It's important, because where do the kids go when they leave here?" Flores said. "Parents are the main role models, and in some cases the only role models."

The program works closely with the Blazers Safe Haven home in South-Central, sharing teaching resources and splitting a $70,000 federal grant that led to the birth of the Angelican program. Organizers of the Angelican Safe Summer hope that their fledgling project, like the Blazers home, can become a fixture in the community.

"I dream of a community center, and a new school there," Paiva said, pointing to properties around the church.

Finances and the future weren't on the mind of 10-year-old Cesar Sierra last week as he spent the afternoon on an Angelican-sponsored field trip to SoccerFest before returning to the church's busy playground. "I like it here because I met a lot of new friends," he said.

The Angelican Lutheran Church is at 1345 S. Burlington Ave., just south of Pico Avenue. The Safe Summer program is open from 1 to 7 p.m. weekdays, and will run through Aug. 26.

Information: (213) 384-8127.

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