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PICO-UNION : Arco Gives $800,000 to Refugee Center Project

The Central American Refugee Center received an $800,000 grant this week from the Arco Foundation to help convert a former government detention facility into a multi-service community center for residents of the bustling Pico-Union district.

Originally a residential board and care facility, the building at 1115 S. Alvarado St. until 1991 served as an Immigration and Naturalization Service detention facility, where illegal immigrants--many of them Central American--were held while awaiting deportation.

“This community center will open opportunities for children and adults (from Central America) that will pay off for all of us,” said James Middleton, Arco executive vice president. Angela Castillo of the refugee center said, “This is like a piece of liberated land. Just the idea of having our own community center . . . of controlling our own destiny is almost unbelievable.”

The $5-million project is financed in part by the city Community Redevelopment Agency.

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