For the second year in a row, the East LA Community Corporation (ELACC) held its annual fundraising gala in the community where it provides many of its services. Donors got a chance to try some of the local culinary offerings, including a variety of foods prepared by street vendors supported by the nonprofit group.
Street vendor Mario Vallego’s served up his fresh churros (sugar coated pastry) while other street vendors served up tacos. Among the local restaurants featured was Zamora Brothers, known especially for its pork carnitas.
The inclusion of street vendors was in line with the group’s mission, which includes working to bring about a policy to legalize street vending in the city of Los Angeles,
Last fall ELACC opened “El Mercado del Pueblo,” an evening farmer’s market-like event designed to give Boyle Heights-area street vendors a place to sell their food without the fear of being shut down by police. The pilot program is held every Saturday at Hollenbeck Middle School.
The Mercado has created an opportunity for participating street vendors to get licenses and health permits.
Assembly Speaker John Perez said the food tasting event that included a free public concert was “a great example of what makes Boyle Heights such a wonderful community: our ability to come together to support one another.” ELACC’s programs also includes the development of low-income and affordable housing.
“We know that the funds raised tonight will help the members of our community struggling to stay in their own homes, help them get the skills they need to make sound financial decisions and bring more affordable housing to our community,” Perez said, calling the Boyle Hotel across the street from the fundraiser venue a “marvel” restored by ELACC.
The LA Conservancy earlier this year recognized ELACC for preserving the Boyle Hotel – Cummings Block building during its 32nd Annual Preservation Awards.
Los Angeles Councilman Jose Huizar, who represents Boyle Heights and supports the street vending pilot program, was honored at Thursday’s event.
Sen. Kevin De Leon pointed out that Huizar—who was born in Zacatecas, Mexico—is the first immigrant to be elected to the Los Angeles City Council and noted many of his accomplishments including being a graduate of an Ivy League school, Princeton University.
What better way is there to show that Boyle Heights is creating self-sustainability, Huizar asked, referring to all the “great food and culture” on display.
“Right now we have so much activism and so many people involved, that I think all of the city is saying something is happening in Boyle Heights. There is something going on there where people are creating a better community for themselves. One that is self-sustainable, one where neighbor supports neighbor and where we are respecting our history while allowing more people to live here by affordable means,” Huizar said, listing improvements in the neighborhood he represents in recent years.
Rudy Espinoza, the executive director of Leadership for Urban Renewal Now (LURN), a non-profit focused on the revitalization of low-income communities, was also honored by ELACC at the event. LURN was started by a group of friends about 6 years ago, and only formalized its status as a nonprofit organization about two years ago.
“It’s a community development idea lab that designs and implements innovations… it’s been an amazing journey,” Espinoza said.
LURN has been working to “help low-income entrepreneurs, some of which are here today” through ELACC’s campaign to legalize street vending, Espinoza explained.
Following the reception, Los Angeles-area Latin band Buyepongo performed a free public concert.
Funds raised during the event benefit ELACC programs.