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Fun for a Cause at Saint Anne

By Jorge Casuso

September 25 -- Carnival goers this weekend tossed coins, threw balls, fired shots, screamed and ate plenty of Mexican food, all in an effort to help Saint Anne Catholic Church try to raise $75,000 for its ministries.

The money raised by the rides, concessions, games and raffle will benefit the church’s community efforts – including its fledgling youth program, an upcoming effort to offer legal aid to area renters and what has become Santa Monica’s largest volunteer food program, said Father Mike Gutierrez, the church pastor.

Carnival rides helped Saint Anne Church raise money. (Photos by Jorge Casuso)

“All the ministries are growing,” Gutierrez said. “We have a very multi-cultural approach and a strong outreach.”

The 99-year-old church -- which boasts 1,500 families, many of them Latino -- recently launched a soccer night at the new Airport Park and welcomed members of the eighth neighborhood to relocate to the area from Oaxaca, Mexico.

The cross cultural experience could be literally tasted first hand at the carnival – which took place Friday, Saturday and Sunday – as food from different regions of Mexico was served up on the sprawling church grounds.

Cook serves up taste of Mexico.

The youth group, which numbers some 50 members, offered baked deserts to help raise money for its programs -- which in addition to Monday night soccer, includes a homework night on Thursday. The youth also helps the priest celebrate mass.

“I meet new people,” said Virgilio Torres, 16, who is starting his senior year at Santa Monica High School. “It keeps people out of the street.

“It’s one place I feel safe,” said Torres, who went straight home after school before joining the youth group.

Youth group members (from left) Becky Garcia, Jessie Garcia, Jessica Rodriguez and Virgilio Torres

Police Chief Tim Jackman enjoyed some homemade tacos and chatted with carnival goers, many of them from the Pico Neighborhood, where he has stepped up neighborhood policing..

“This is neat,” Jackman said. “There’s a lot of people, very friendly. Father Mike does a great job in the community, and they’re coming out to show their support.”

Santa Monica College Board Trustee Nancy Greenstein used the occasion to break her Rosh Hashanah fast with a burger

“There’s much enthusiasm, and I love to watch the youth go on the rides,” said Greenstein, a longtime tenant leader.

Greenstein praised the efforts of Father Mike, who has headed the church for eight years and will help celebrate Saint Anne School’s 100 anniversary this year.

“He’s much more involved in the fabric of Santa Monica,” Greenstein said. “They’re working with the community to do as much as they can. What they’re doing is not in isolation.”

Saint Anne Church is still accepting donations. Those interested in contributing should call 310-829-4411.

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“We have a very multi-cultural approach and a strong outreach.” Mike Gutierrez


“It’s one place I feel safe.” Virgilio Torres


“They’re working with the community to do as much as they can." Nancy Greenstein


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