Last June, officials at the Main Library asked West-Central Orange residents what they thought the community needed. The answers have led to the creation of Friendly Stop, a drop-in center where local teens can visit or get advice on issues ranging from homework to jobs, sex, health and drugs.
The library outreach facility, which opens Sunday, will help acquaint students with library and community services and will offer programs that address the special needs of Latino high school students. Programs for building self-esteem and community pride will be offered along with lessons in English language skills.
The opening ceremony, including a mariachi band, a ribbon-cutting ceremony and a performance by local Girl Scouts, begins at 12:30 p.m. in Killefer Park.
Friendly Stop/La Parada de Amistad is the brainchild of a coalition organized by the city's Main Library. The coalition included The Friendly Center, a community center with a 65-year history in the neighborhood, Holy Family Cathedral and about 20 other representatives from city government, churches, schools, hospitals and youth groups.
"It's a known fact that teen-agers don't use libraries," said Kerry Stern, the Main Library program manager who raised more than $100,000 for Friendly Stop through a federal grant from the Library Services and Construction Act. "It doesn't matter what nationality they are."
A poll of the Killefer Park area last year found that less than half of the local teens held library cards and that 54% speak Spanish at home.
Aileen Angel, who spent 17 years in the Orange Unified School District as a reading specialist and bilingual teacher, is the Friendly Stop coordinator. Angel said the staff is stopping teens on the street to tell them about the center. She will also attend high school reading classes and English-as-a-second-language courses to discuss tutoring help.
While Friendly Stop targets local youth between 13 and 18 years old, organizers also hope that the center will make the library seem a less intimidating place for older Latino residents. Organizers said the bilingual staff and resource materials will help reach that goal.
Angel admits that the center's goals are ambitious. But, she said, it is only responding to community requests.
In fact, Angel said, "I am not spending all the (grant) money until I find out what we need. I don't want to make the people meet the program, I want the program to meet the people."
Friendly Stop hours are Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 3 p.m. to 9 p.m.; Tuesday and Thursday from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m.; and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. It is located at 615A N. Lemon St. in Killefer Park.