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THE SAFETY ZONE

Program Honored for Uniting Kids, Seniors

October 23, 2000|MAI TRAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

When Gloria Perez visited the Holiday Mobile Home Park in Santa Ana last year, the police services officer found the place rife with conflict.

About 20 seniors who had moved into the 75-space seniors-only complex to seek peace for their retirement were at wits' end. The park began allowing families about five years ago, and now there were children laughing loudly and playing in the neighborhood drives.

The 60 or so children couldn't understand why the seniors were so cranky when they hopped on their skateboards, and they generally ignored pleas to quiet down.

But the friction soon diminished after Perez got parents and children together and started the Junior Children of Pride, a program that works with at-risk children from low-income families living in apartments or mobile-home parks.

"Now the kids say, 'Hi,' " said Candy Grover, the park's manager, who has lived through the myriad disagreements in recent years. "They show [seniors] what project they're working on. It's given them all a role and it's working out really well."

The program was honored earlier this month by the Orange County Human Relations Commission. The annual Community-Oriented Policing Awards are given to five outstanding and innovative programs. The awards, given for the sixth year, are part of the commission's "Orange County Together" initiative launched after the 1992 Los Angeles riots.

Other recipients included:

* The Brea Police Department and Dr. Frank Welch. Welch recruited more than 30 volunteers and raised money to buy two-way radios. He began a neighborhood patrol program in which he watches the Downtown Promenade on Saturday nights and reports criminal activities to police.

* La Habra Police Department's Community Policing Unit partnered with a judge, prosecutor, defense attorney and residents to capture a mentally ill man who had been terrorizing the neighborhood for seven years.

* Orange County Sheriff's Department Neighborhood Enhancement Team collaborated with various groups to clean up neglected neighborhoods in El Modena, Anaheim and Midway City.

* San Clemente Junior Woman's Club, The Mentor Project and San Clemente Police Services joined with the Orange County Sheriff's Department to volunteer more than 3,000 hours and donated more than $36,500 to address youth issues.

Rusty Kennedy, executive director of the commission, praised the honorees. He noted that the Junior Children of Pride program took on "a big challenge working with kids in a high-density area. . . . It's a neat package."

As part of the program, which is in its second year, a police officer visits weekly with the residents at the mobile home park at Harbor Boulevard and Fifth Street.

The approximately 30 children who participate in the program are rewarded for good behavior and extra work. They receive tickets for reading and writing a book report, for example, and can trade those tickets for such prizes as a book bag, Angels game tickets or a computer, donated by local businesses.

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