CITY TERRACE : Riot Relief Drains Salesian Youth Club

The Salesian Boys & Girls Club, credited with being instrumental in keeping peace on the Eastside during the April-May riots, is facing staff cuts in part because money is being diverted for riot relief, club officials said.

Funding reductions from the United Way--14.75% last year and 38.76% this year--have forced the club to figure out new ways to meet its weekly payroll. Executive Director Father Carmine Vairo paid his 13 staff members last week by dipping into his own salary and that of his fellow Salesian priests and brothers.

Vairo said that local businesses could be counted on in the past to pick up the slack for funding cuts, but businesses he has contacted say they have promised those funds to Rebuild L.A.

"Unfortunately, it will be hard to get the Rebuild L.A. money to the Eastside," Vairo said. "The one area in which we do not qualify is that our area was not burned and was not looted, but we have all the other factors that led to the riots. We have the economic problems, the poverty, and we have street gangs."

Vairo and club board president Frank Villalobos, who spearheaded the effort that successfully blocked construction of a state prison in East Los Angeles, have been credited with keeping much of the Eastside calm during the riots. When riots broke out elsewhere, they met and started calling their neighborhood connections, including Mothers of East Los Angeles and others who worked against the state prison plan, to keep their children at home.

"The idea was to get grass-roots people together because the grass-roots people were the ones who made sure the people observed the respect for the community," Vairo said. "The people took to heart the call to maintain order."

The funding crisis comes a year after the club's board completed a two-year drive that raised $2.5 million to repair damage to its building caused by the 1987 Whittier earthquake. This summer, the club had an open house to unveil some of the improvements, including an enclosure for its swimming pool and a new computer room. The gym and pool were closed immediately after the earthquake when cracks were found, and the entire building was closed in 1990 for repairs before reopening in August, 1991.

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