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VENICE : Opening of Kids' Center Brings Out Smiles

November 20, 1994|LORENZA MUNOZ

After nearly four years of negotiations, the Las Doradas Children's Center has found a new home in the Oakwood section of Venice.

Las Doradas, which began in 1984 as a program for latchkey children and became a preschool and after-school center in 1989, had occupied a rented building on Broadway Avenue. Earlier this year, the building was moved to new property owned by the Los Angeles Unified School District, next to Broadway Elementary School, and renovated.

On Thursday, the center formally opened its doors at the new site, amid tributes to the city officials, private corporations, individual fund-raisers and neighborhood organizers who made the project possible.

Officials said the center's proximity to Broadway Elementary will be far more convenient for parents seeking preschool and after-school services--particularly in a community recovering from months of gang violence.

"It's been truly a labor of love all around by people who recognize the center as a ray of hope in this embattled community," said Adel Martinez, the center's executive director.

The center, operated by the nonprofit Neighborhood Youth Assn., serves 45 children and has two-full time teachers, two full-time aides and equipment that includes seven computers. Under the $150,000 project, the center's building was purchased from the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, moved and renovated. The land on which the building sits is being leased from the school district for $1 a year.

The center is named after a group of Pacific Palisades women that has been raising money for charities for three decades. Since 1983, the women, who call themselves Las Doradas, or "the golden ones," have focused their efforts exclusively on the children's center, raising about $100,000 for it.

Among those on hand to celebrate the opening of the center were actor Arnold Schwarzenegger, Los Angeles City Councilwoman Ruth Galanter and KCBS-TV newscaster Linda Alvarez, who hosted the event.

"As a parent, I realize how important it is to invest time in our children," said Schwarzenegger, who donated $25,000 toward the center's renovation. At Thursday's ceremony, he jokingly said to the children: "Don't be angry with me if I come back as the kindergarten cop and ask you to do a few pushups with me!"

Parents at the ceremony said the center's new site near Broadway Elementary not only is more convenient, but also gives them a greater sense of security.

Children had more immediate objectives.

Said 3-year-old Renica Turner as she stood on the center's playground: "I like to slide!"

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