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VALLEY ROUNDUP | Mission Hills

Kiwanis Gives $1,200 for Tattoo Removals

May 31, 2000|STEPHANIE STASSEL

Kiwanis clubs in San Fernando and Sylmar have donated $1,200 to a local tattoo-removal program that helps young people break the visible connection to a gang.

The contribution pays for rental of state-of-the-art laser equipment used at Providence Holy Cross Medical Center's weekly tattoo removal clinic. Clients undergo an average of seven treatments to remove a tattoo, depending on how deep it penetrates the skin and what kind of ink was used, officials said.

In return for each free treatment, patients must complete 16 hours of community service. Since the program began more than two years ago, nearly 1,800 treatments have been received and more than 28,000 hours of community service performed, program officials said.

Program coordinator Sister June Wilkerson said about 60% of the clients are former gang members who want to erase their visible gang connection. One client, whose tattoo was only slightly faded after one treatment, recently was stabbed while waiting for the bus because of his tattoo, she said.

"It points to the need to get rid of them," Wilkerson said in an interview Tuesday. "Even if you leave the gang, you're still a marked person."

Aside from putting a person at risk, tattoos can hinder employment opportunities, because some employers will not hire someone with a visible tattoo, Wilkerson said.

Currently, 235 participants are in the program. Participants must be San Fernando Valley residents, have a visible tattoo and agree to perform the community service work.

For more information, call (818) 898-4416.

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