COSTA MESA : Anti-Gang Efforts Gaining Momentum

They started coming to La Puerta Abierta Church on Monday, the day after the shooting.

A small group of gang members, who had just lost one of their own to a rival's bullet, were looking for some answers.

They turned to Pastor Jose Coronado, a former cholo who had done his time with heroin and jail before going straight. Since that initial meeting, they haven't stopped coming back.

"We talk about their plans, desires. Some already are going back to school, changing their lives," said Coronado, who started the Christian church in 1981. "They begin to realize when they get close to tasting death, that it could happen to me. It could happen to my homeboy."

Coronado's help came just days after the city was rocked by two drive-by shootings. The second resulted in the death of 19-year-old Ivan Ulises Torres-Carrillo.

Since then, peace has hung over the city like a delicate silence, always in danger of being broken.

However, residents like Coronado are not waiting for this to happen. He is one of several people who have recently taken action to stop the violence.

But even before the shootings, signs of changes were starting to take place. Latino parents were forming groups, politicians were talking and programs were being implemented.

On Sunday the efforts continue as Latinos Costa Mesa, with the help of many of these interested groups, presents a Community Festival, in yet another attempt to forge peace.

"The festival is to bring the community together so that we can develop a cohesiveness and begin to work together," said Roy Alvarado, president of Latinos Costa Mesa. "We feel really good about it, that together we can make something happen."

Although the festival is being sponsored by Alvarado's group, several other organizations that have emerged in the past several months are also helping out with the finer details, from cooking and raising money to setting up picnic tables.

They also have gotten support from local businesses and city officials, who are expected to stop by.

The Community Festival will be from 1 to 6 p.m. at Lions Park, 570 W. 18th St. Residents are asked to bring a potluck meal.

Entertainment will include a volleyball match between city officials and residents at 1:45 p.m.

For those involved, it is another example of this community's efforts to find some answers.

"What is different between this festival and others is that the people themselves are doing it," said Councilman Joe Erickson, who has worked with several of the groups. "This whole thing started long before the shooting took place. That just may have made it more focused."

In fact, it was this spring that a handful of parents and their children came by the Downtown Center to talk and left as Parents for Teens, now one of the most prominent organizations.

Next to form was the Costa Mesa Neighborhood Task Force, made up primarily of concerned Latino parents.

From these meetings have come several ideas ranging from starting a boxing program, to police ride-alongs for teens, which is currently in place.

One of the proposals includes opening up a youth activity center that is staffed by local parents.

There have also been carwashes to raise money, garage sales and trips to Disneyland. And now the festival.

"I have real high hopes that it is going to get the community going," Erickson said.

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