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Beleaguered Santa Monica Center Raises Big Money from New Sponsors

Santa Monica Real Estate Company, Roque and Mark

Pacific Park, Santa Monica Pier

Harding Larmore Kutcher & Kozal, LLP  law firm
Harding, Larmore
Kutcher & Kozal, LLP


Convention and Visitors Bureau Santa Monica

By Niki Cervantes
Staff Writer

August 20, 2015 -- Fighting to keep its doors open, Santa Monica’s Pico Youth and Family Center has high hopes for its annual fundraiser later this month and is buoyed by a sudden, long list of new sponsors bringing in some big money.

PYFC also announced the center’s award winners for this year, a list that includes #BlackLivesMatter, a national grassroots activist movement, along with two Santa Monica City Council members and a local hi-tech firm that helped with renovations and now mentors the center’s youths.

The 17-year-old center has been besieged with bad news since the City Council stripped them of $190,000 in funding in a dispute over its goals and methods of operation.

But Oscar de la Torre, its executive director and founder, said there have been heartening developments.

PYFC has already sold about 60 percent of the tickets available for its 8th Annual Hope and Unity Awards Gala, on August 29 at the Le Meridien Delfina Hotel in Santa Monica, de la Torre said.

Tickets are $100 each.

“We’re doing pretty good, but we’re really going to do a heavy push” on ticket sales in the coming days, said de la Torre.

PYFC also has found several new sponsors, he said, including Southern California Disposal and Recycling, Allan Recycling, Providence Saint John’s Health Center and the Santa Monica Malibu Classroom Teachers Association.

Between ticket sales, the gala’s auction and sponsorships, the youth center hopes to raise $42,000, de la Torre said.

The bottom line, though, is that PYFC needs about $100,000 to continue operating, he said.

The center was started by Pico neighborhood residents in 1998 as a reaction to a rash of gang shootings in Santa Monica's poorest and most diverse neighborhood. The City at that time granted the center more than $350,000.

But over the years the center’s relationship with City Hall has frayed, and in 2013 funding was cut to $90,000. A onetime bailout of $190,000 was granted last year but, despite pleas and protests from supporters, the Council voted in June to strip the center’s funding altogether.

PYFC has been scrambling to find new funding since then, and has managed to stay open due in large part to a $1.6 million grant from the foundation of the late philanthropist Peggy Bergman, whose endowment gives the center 10 percent of the total each year.

This year's gala will honor Tiny Rebellion, which is being given the Hope and Unity Awardees Digital Dream Award; Santa Monica City Council member Sue Himmelrich, winner of the Progressive Champion Award; Alex Aldana, Jenny Saldana and UCLA Xinachtli, sharing the Youth Leaders and Scholars Award; Santa Monica City Council member Tony Vazquez, winner of the Private Joe Gandara Award and #BlackLivesMatter, winner of the Freedom Fighters Award.


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