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Pico Youth and Family Center Finds New Funding Sources

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By Daniel Larios
Staff Writer

April 28, 2014- It was less than a year ago when the City of Santa Monica slashed funding for the Pico Youth and Family Center (PYFC) due to concerns over the nonprofit's bookkeeping and administration. Since that time, the PYFC has found new sources of funding through private donations from individuals and fellow nonprofits.

In the past eight months, the PYFC has raised more than $20,000 in private donations, said Oscar de la Torre, the center's executive director. The PYFC's goal is to raise $40,000 to $50,000 this year.

“We have support from Saint John’s Health Center, the Jane Fonda Family Foundation and Southern California Disposal, to name a few,” de la Torre told the Lookout. “Last Thursday, we received a donation from esteemed and world-renowned Latino musician Oscar D’Leon during a special visit.”

D’Leon's $2,500 donation will allow the PYFC to purchase new equipment for its recording studio, which provides free access to musicians ages 16 to 24 years who meet the PYFC's criteria for services, officials said.

"The PYFC opened the first public recording studio for youth in our city's history in 2002, and our equipment is old and overused," de la Torre said. "D'Leon's support and contribution will give new life to our recording studio. His act of goodwill has inspired us to name the recording studio in his name. The PYFC will now be home to the Oscar D'Leon Recording Studio for Youth."

The Center will host a major gala May 31 in an effort to reach its fundraising goal.

To pay its expenses, the PYFC is also relying on the $1.6 million endowment willed to the center last year by Santa Monica philanthropist Peggy Bergmann. The money, which will be earmarked to fund the nonprofit's programs and services targeting at-risk youth, will be released to the PYFC in increments of 10 percent each year by the Santa Barbara Foundation.

When the PYFC opened in 2002, the City provided approximately $350,000 for its services and programs. This annual contribution continued until last year, when the City Council voted to reduce the allocation to $250,000 per year, based on government officials' concerns the nonprofit was overly reliant municipal financial support. (“Council Slashes Funding for Santa Monica Youth Center,” June 2013)

In May 2012, City officials said that they found a number of irregularities in the nonprofit's books, including duplicate paychecks for top staffers. (“Santa Monica Youth Center Given Final Ultimatum,” May 21, 2012)

“Our goal is to diversify our funding and become less dependent on City dollars,” de la Torre said. “But we need some time to transition from our dependency. We’re a relatively new organization.”

He added, “We’ve been fundraising since we started the center. Even without the 1.6 million, since 2002, we’ve raised more than $500,000. It’s going well, but it’s challenging.”

De la Torre has had a long history of tense relations with some City officials, including members of the Police Department and the City Manager Rod Gould.

“We hope that the city manager will be reasonable in his approach with his attempt to keep the PYFC," de la Torre said.

City officials have recommended the PYFC adopt more diversified funding. However, they are not keeping tabs on the current finances of the center.

“It’s too early to tell," said Human Services Administrator Setareh Yavari about the PYFC's finances. “We usually get year-end reports from the community centers around July and August.”

During a council meeting last June, council members said the reduced funding was not an indication the PYFC would be closing.

Councilmember Gleam Davis told the crowd of supporters that the center would not be closing and that “all nonprofits… go through a maturation process… and eventually have to become a sustainable enterprise.”

De la Torre is optimistic about the PYFC's future.

He said, “We’re hopeful because the city manager visited the center last time, and we had a good meeting and he promised to follow up with us to discuss the question of city support."

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