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Nonprofits Rush to Beat Deadline

Grants: Only six groups statewide will get program's funds to help combat gangs and drugs.


Nearly 140 community groups across California, including one in Santa Paula, scrambled Thursday to meet today's application deadline for a grant designed to clean up neighborhoods hit hard by gangs and drugs--even though the number of grant recipients has been slashed to six.

Organizations awarded one of the coveted California Gang, Crime and Violence Prevention Partnership grants could see nearly $1 million pumped into their budgets over the next four years.

And leaders of the Santa Paula effort say the grants are key to providing alternatives to youths in danger of getting pushed into a life of crime and incarceration. All the organizations serve low-income areas prone to violent street gangs, high crime and single-parent homes.

The grants, which funneled a steady supply of cash into 15 nonprofit agencies in high-crime areas during the past four years, have been a casualty of the ongoing budget crisis in Sacramento. That means first-time applicants such as Santa Paula will compete for nine fewer slots, with dozens of other agencies either attempting to renew their grant or reapplying after being rejected in 1998, the first year of the program.

Although the Legislature has yet to agree on a budget for 2002-03, officials administering the grants have been told they will receive only half of the earlier annual allocation of $3 million. State officials passed on the bad news last month at a gathering of grant writers and nonprofit directors at a San Diego conference.

"This is one of those things where everyone is having to cut," said Steve Hedrick, assistant director of the crime and violence prevention center at the state attorney general's office, which administers the grant.

"We're hopeful [the money] will go back up, but it doesn't look like it will. That's the reality at this point."

In Santa Paula, where the Santa Clara Boys & Girls Club would administer the grant, officials said the money would go a long way toward giving choices to children.

Boys & Girls Club officials estimate that the grant, representing $237,500 annually through 2006, could pay the salary of a gang-prevention coordinator as well as a job-placement expert. The grant also would fund a school-based police officer and pay part of the salary of a deputy district attorney who would work part time on truancy issues.

A cut in the money available also means nine agencies that received the grants four years ago will be forced to either eliminate jobs and programs started with the money or find new ways to pay for them.

"It will take a good chunk out of the services that we can provide," said Corey Dantzler, vice president of operations for the Challengers Boys & Girls Club in South-Central Los Angeles.

Dantzler said the club, which operates in a former supermarket, serves about 450 youths a day from ages 6 to 17 in the busy summer months and has a membership of 3,500. Losing the grant would trim the club's $1-million budget by more than $200,000 and put an end to some valuable educational programs, he said.

"With these funds we had done things we had not done in the past, like technology and science programs and things that have been taken out of schools," Dantzler said. With today's deadline in mind, Dantzler, Santa Paula Boys & Girls Club Director Pat Zwagerman and other agency directors around the state spent much of Thursday buried in paperwork as they tried to construct a winning application.

A committee of state-appointed law enforcement experts and social workers will spend next week sifting through applications. The six recipients will be announced Aug. 14, officials said.

"[State officials] are going to get bombarded with people saying the same thing," said Mike Jump, a grant writer in the Ventura County district attorney's office who has worked on the Santa Paula application. "The trick will be how you say it."

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