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Salazar Park Seniors’ Issues Are Resolved

The Friends of Salazar Park Seniors, a group of volunteers, say they are now satisfied with the outcome of recent meetings to address policies they said would hurt their ability to raise money and provide services at the unincorporated East Los Angeles area park.

Last week, EGP reported that Los Angeles County Department of Parks and Recreation officials had informed the seniors and other groups at the park that several policies were not being followed at the site, and that was about to change.

From now on, park officials said, non-profit groups using park facilities to hold fundraisers would have to give 10 percent of what they raise to the county. Other groups and some individuals using the facilities for services where they collect money, would be required to enter into a special recreation contract with the county and pay 30 percent of their proceeds to the parks and recreation department. In addition, all groups would have to provide their own insurance, Acting Regional Parks and Recreation Director Albert Gomez informed the seniors.

Upset over the changes, senior volunteers at the park threatened to boycott the park and take their efforts elsewhere. They told EGP they felt they were being punished for calling attention to an exercise instructor they said was pocketing a lot of money charging for her classes, but not giving any of it back to the park.

But it now seems that the seniors can continue on as usual with their activities at the park, including efforts to raise money for special events and programs for the seniors.

The policies outlined do not apply to the seniors, according to Kaye Michelson, special assistant LA County Dept. of Parks of Recreation. “We needed just to clarify this information and that’s what we’re doing,” she said, responding to the distress voiced by the seniors.

Friends of Salazar Park and Club Victoria will be able to continue fundraising that directly benefits park programs without having to pay the 10 percent and “we will continue to support their efforts,” Michelson told EGP on Monday.

“The 10 percent is if someone is going to rent our facility and put on a large event for the community, for example,” she said, regarding the policy for non-profits that use the site.

Chris Mojica, long-time senior coordinator and volunteer, credited EGP with the positive outcome that enables them to continue their work that benefits seniors and community members at one of East Los Angeles’ most active parks.

“Through your story… there is going to be more cooperation between them and us,” Mojica said.

He said he met with department officials who set things straight. Mojica said he complained about park staff who had let things get out of hand and they apologized and asked him what the seniors need: he responded with a request for new chairs, and a few other items, he told EGP. “We don’t need a lot,” he said.

Mojica, however, said the group still intends to become a 501(c)3 non-profit.

“The senior center at Salazar Park is one of our busiest centers and we appreciate and value all of the hard work of all of the groups at the center,” Michelson said.

The Thanksgiving lunches will continue to be offered to the community, with the support of the department as in years past, Michelson said.

Mojica also said they were planning to expand their turkey basket give-away.

Michelson also highlighted Supervisor Gloria Molina’s many contributions to the park and senior programs and senior outings as examples that the seniors do have the support of county officials.