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Jewish Painting Party Gives Clinic a Face Lift

Charity: Hollywood temple volunteers mark day of service at Pico-Union medical facility, and with more than 70 other projects.

April 22, 2002|LAURA LOH | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The two-story Clinica Para Las Americas normally looks rundown compared to its neighbor, the towering, 350-bed St. Vincent Medical Center.

But on Sunday, the free clinic in the Pico-Union area got some special attention and a substantial face lift: fresh white paint on the interior, and yellows, greens and reds on an aging Latin American-themed mural outside.

Two dozen volunteers, armed with paintbrushes and energy, descended on the clinic as part of Mitzvah Day, a day that Jewish groups dedicate each year to charitable acts.

The painting party was one of more than 70 events organized in and around Los Angeles by the Social Justice Committee of Temple Israel of Hollywood.

Other activities included cooking lasagna for hospital AIDS patients and bowling with developmentally disabled adults.

Clinica Para Las Americas, founded in 1989 to give primary medical care to low-income, uninsured Latino immigrants, operates on a $1.5-million annual budget from public and private sources. Sprucing up its appearance is a luxury on which it can't afford to spend funds.

"The money that we get goes to provide services," said Linda Dacon, the clinic's director. "It doesn't go to paint the clinic. It doesn't go to [repair] the termite problem."

In about three hours, one team had scrubbed and painted most of the 18 offices and examination rooms on the clinic's lower floor.

Two young girls, covered in white paint specks, darted through the still-wet hallways after finishing their tasks.

"We painted the trim," said Chloe Horowitz, 6, running her hand along a door frame. Her friend, Zoe Reid, 7, chimed in: "We also painted a wall--except for the high-up part."

Another team sanded and retouched the peeling and faded mural, which portrays scenes of domestic life.

The volunteers discussed how to restore the painting of a woman sitting on a balcony railing next to a man bent over peeling a basket of apples.

After deciding that the woman's dress was light red only because of sun exposure, they decided on a vibrant, blood-red shade to restore it.

Sonny Estrada, 42, a member of Temple Israel, painted climbing vines and baskets of flowers on a large patch of undecorated wall that has become a favorite target of graffiti vandals.

"It seems as though any time there's a picture of something, they avoid it," Estrada said. "It's sort of a deterrent."

Dacon distributed water bottles to volunteers and marveled at the work.

"I feel like putting a sign in front of here [that reads]: 'Please don't put graffiti here. We're probably providing your family with free health care,'" she said.

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