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Community News: East

EAST LOS ANGELES : Community Center Gets Year Extension

October 23, 1994|MARY ANNE PEREZ

The Door of Hope Community Center, which provides food donations, education and other services, recently got word that it will be able to stay at least another year at the warehouse it has used for six months.

The warehouse at 1250 S. Goodrich Blvd. was donated by East Los Angeles Community Union, a nonprofit developer that has built low-cost housing across the city. Praise Chapel, which has operated Door of Hope for three years, plans to seek grants so it can eventually rent the building.

Door of Hope, operated by volunteers and Pastor Edward Melendez and his wife, Shirley, includes a food bank, addiction recovery programs, computer training classes and youth activities. Before the warehouse space was donated, the center, which began with a food pantry and expanded to other services, was run from the church across the street.

The warehouse will be converted to classrooms and offices with the help of donated building materials and labor. And volunteers hope to begin new services.

"We want to start a youth center," said volunteer Lydia Cardenas, a Praise Chapel member who started volunteering full time when she was laid off from her job in April. "We're trying to get pool tables and a Ping-Pong table. We have one that's falling apart but the kids use it anyway."

Former dropouts have started taking classes there to earn their high school diplomas. Recently, a class of 10 adults finished a six-month course in computer basics.

The church also hopes to start a program for latch-key children.

Ernest Castro, director of the Northeast Juvenile Justice Center, said he has referred about 50 juveniles to Door of Hope for adult mentors.

His staff has also directed dozens of the juveniles' families to the food bank and contributed apples and oranges to food baskets that the center puts together during the holidays.

"We consider them a lead agency in providing a need," Castro said. "They're one of the few agencies in the area that provides (those) kind of services to the families. As word got out that they are a real agency, they have grown."

Although the center has provided a field trip for the youths and plans another in November, it concentrates on what it can show them in their own neighborhood.

"We started at the church with a few cupboards and we tried to show the kids about sharing for the less fortunate," Cardenas said. "They started bringing in cans at every service and we became overwhelmed."

The center depends on volunteers, mostly members of the church such as Carmen Surveyor, who teaches the beginning computer class on Monday nights. Surveyor, who designed the curriculum, has seen some success stories, including one woman who was able to keep her job as a result of learning about computers.

"Being able to help them and see them prosper in their own life is gratification for me," said Surveyor, who recalled that half of the 50 who originally signed up for the course had to first learn how to type. "It's important that I'm giving back to my area. I like to help the people in my own neighborhood."

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