Money for a G.O.O.D. cause

As state legislators squabble over proposed budget plans up north in Sacramento, local non-profits are increasingly finding themselves pinching pennies and searching out new sources of funding.Gangs Out of Downey (GOOD) is no exception, as the anti-gang organization finds itself pondering ways to raise about $22,000 to ensure police officers remain stationed at Downey's three public high schools. State and federal grants initially paid for the officers (who work on their scheduled days off and rotate between Downey, Warren and Columbus high schools), and when funding ran out, GOOD and the Downey Unified School District agreed to jointly pick up the tab. But when the school district was forced to reevaluate its expenditures due to steep state budget cuts to K-12 education, and with GOOD grappling a slowdown in donations due to the declining economy, the campus police program suddenly found itself in serious jeopardy. Last August, just weeks before the start of school, the City Council stepped in and unanimously agreed to cover the costs - ensuring officers would remain on campus - but there's no guarantee the city will be in a financial position to be so charitable next school year. And that has GOOD worried. GOOD held their regular meeting this week where they discussed finances and other matters. Crime statistics have declined in Downey and, ironically, that hurts GOOD's chances of securing state funding, said Stan Hanstad, one of the organization's founding members. GOOD also lacks a professional grant writer, which makes securing state and national funds a challenge. Hiring a grant writer would potentially cost more money than the group could afford. As of Dec. 31, GOOD had about $26,000 in its bank account. The money is used to fund community outreach events, youth interventions, scholarships, and more. Financial worries aside, the group expressed gratitude for several recent donations, including contributions from the Optimist Club of Downey, First Presbyterian Church, Richard Strayer, and Bob and Jean Brazelton. Success story Darrell Jackson, immediate past president of GOOD, said he recently received a phone call from Johnny Cervantes, a 10-20 Club success story who managed to turn his life around. The 10-20 Club is an off-shoot program of GOOD, helping residents by offering support groups, anger management classes, and other services. Jackson said Cervantes thanked the club for its scholarships to ITT Tech. The classes enabled him to land an engineering job in Portugal. Jackson also thanked Ernest Caldwell and Mayor Mario Guerra for attending Los Padrinos Juvenile Hall on Christmas Day to deliver 200 goodie bags to kids. Graffiti City employee Lisa Fox said 53,000 sq. ft. of graffiti was removed in Downey last month, down from 68,000 sq. ft. during the same time last year. "We're seeing more small stuff," Fox said, including tagging on benches and sidewalks. She said the area near Orange Street and Paramount Boulevard was recently heavily tagged with gang insignia. But Fox said 15 separate calls were made to the city's graffiti hotline to report the damage. Fox said the Columbia Space Science Center has already been hit once by taggers, and has requested the center's windows be installed with anti-graffiti film. Clean-up Carol Rowland reported that Keep Downey Beautiful held a clean-up last month before Christmas. And despite a smaller group of volunteers than usual, they picked up 35 bags of garbage that had been dumped behind the old Albertson's building on Firestone Boulevard. Rowland said the group collected tires, paint cans, oil, and clothing. Keep Downey Beautiful's next clean-up will be Jan. 17. The group will gather at 9 a.m. at Sussman Middle School before cleaning up the area near Brookshire Park. Burglaries Sgt. Randy Wells of the Downey Police Department, who is taking over for the retired Jeff Calhoun, said the city experienced an increase in residential burglaries last month. Nighttime street robberies were also up, and in response the department was adjusting their patrols. Wells also confirmed a home invasion robbery this week, and said another home invasion occurred last month. The area of Orange Street and Paramount Boulevard was the scene of a recent shooting, Wells said. Nobody was hurt. Neighborhood Watch Guerra said recent crime statistics show a decline in Downey crime, with the exception of car thefts, which are "way up." Guerra also praised the Neighborhood Watch program, spearheaded by city employee Juddy Ceniceros, and its continued growth. Ceniceros said there are currently 31 active Neighborhood Watch groups in Downey. The city and school district recently distributed fliers to neighborhoods where break-ins were occurring at local schools, Ceniceros said. To donate to Gangs Out of Downey, mail checks to Gangs Out of Downey, P.O. Box 13, Downey, CA 90241. ********** Published: January 9, 2009 - Volume 7 - Issue 38