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Anaheim OKs $250,000 for At-Risk Youth Programs : Recreation: Church-based group asked for funds to stem violence and gang activity. The appropriation is a one-time donation from the city to launch the program.


ANAHEIM — Hoping to curb violence and gang activity, the City Council on Tuesday approved more than $250,000 worth of after-school programs.

The council's action was applauded by more than 50 members of a grass-roots interfaith group which helped to develop the proposals, but the amount of funding fell far short of of the $750,000 they had requested for a full slate of programs.

"There has been a good deal of cooperation, but they are saying there is only $250,000, and we are not happy about that," said Rev. John Lenihan, pastor of St. Boniface Catholic Church in Anaheim.

Lenihan was among the representatives from the Orange County Congregation Community Organization, an interfaith group representing 15 churches countywide, which proposed the programs after extensive research.

The council approved a total of $251,843 to pay for the addition of sports activities to the Kids In Action anti-gang program, the hiring of an outreach worker to work with female gang members, the expansion of a recreation program at George Washington Community Center from summer to year-round, the addition of a sixth day at the city's boxing club, and the scheduling of at least eight special events at the George Washington Community Center focusing on human services, employment and the arts.

Among the items not funded were a proposed youth employment service, a teen center, a homework center, a computer lab, and evening sports leagues.

Members of the organization met with Mayor Tom Daly in June and complained that gang violence has increased sharply in recent years, while the city has made deep cuts in its Parks and Recreation Department programs.

The church-based organization lists more than 50,000 families in Orange County as members.

They developed what they call the "Anaheim Youth Vision Platform" after conducting a survey and holding 54 meetings with experts in education, law enforcement and crime prevention to get to the root of the city's youth problems.

City staff was directed in June to analyze and evaluate the group's platform. They met with organization leaders several times throughout the summer and prioritized the group's requests with input from the Citizens Gang/Task Force, said Christopher K. Jarvi, director of parks, recreation and human services.

Jarvi said there was not enough money in the city's budget to cover all of the programs, and that city staff proposed to fund those geared for children 12 and under.

The money allocated by the council is one-time funding to launch the programs and would not be available every year, Jarvi said. He said future revenue could come from the federal crime bill recently approved by Congress, the city's Community Block Grant Program, and grants.

Lenihan said he is optimistic that the programs will succeed and continue to be funded each year.

"We're convinced it's going to show its worth," he said. "We're trying to make the rubber hit the road and have there be definitive contact with these kids."

Daly asked city staff to continue to explore ways to try and fund the remainder of the programs proposed. City Manager James D. Ruth said the city would have a better idea in January what next year's budget picture will look like.

"I think we're making great strides," Daly said.

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