Ordinarily, a City of Los Angeles park changing management wouldn’t be such a big deal. But don’t tell that to Monserrat Conde. Since the age of seven and all through elementary school and high school, “Monse,” as she is called, went to “IMPACTO,” the after-school and summer educational enrichment program of Proyecto Pastoral. Now that comprehensive program has expanded at the Aliso Pico Recreation Center in Boyle Heights. And on Aug. 1, the grass-roots Proyecto that began at Dolores Mission in 1986 took charge, replacing the Department of Recreation and Parks as administrative agency. “IMPACTO kept me off the streets, and I think that’s a big thing,” 19-year-old Conde told The Tidings during the late-afternoon community picnic and celebration of the turnover on Aug. 2. “The staff also provided academic enrichment and leadership activities. “And they kind of helped me discover my passion in helping others and knowing what I wanted to do. I think going to college this last year would have been very hard without their help. I know I had it in me, but I don’t think it would have been what I wanted to do.  Because that’s not what goes on in my family. It’s not a tradition to go to college. I’m actually the first one from my grandma’s side.”In their eye-catching purple T-shirts, Conde and other Proyecto workers served hot dogs and drinks to a line of residents stretching more than 30 yards at times. They also ran an inflatable castle for kids to jump in, a T-shirt decorating table, burlap sack races and a lot more. Right away teenage boys started up an impromptu game of soccer on the expansive lawn, while girls gathered in small groups to chat and, of course, giggle. Older women simply sat around a banquet table outside to catch up and gossip. Two-year contractBut before the hotdogs and games, an assembly was held in the cinder block, high-ceiling gym decorated with bouquets of purple and white balloons. Children sat in the front rows of folding chairs with watchful parents and grandparents behind them. Officials from the City of Los Angeles’ Housing Authority and Department of Recreation and Parks gave speeches about the two-year contract with Proyecto Pastoral with three one-year options to provide recreation programs for a total amount not to exceed $225,000. Cheerleaders and gymnasts from the park performed with unbounded youthful energy. After, people were encouraged to see the works of summer IMPACTO students — including paper mache seals and starfish, hand-painted butterflies and a poignant “Drugs + Your Life = Isn’t Pretty” display — adorning the gym’s walls.Sanford Riggs, Housing Service director, said he was really happy about the new partnership between his agency and Proyecto Pastoral. “And I believe Proyecto will do wonderful work here for many years to come,” he noted. “So we will work very closely with Proyecto in the years to come to make this just a great collaboration now and in the future.Superintendent Mark Mariscal of the departing Department of Recreation and Parks said the transition was a great opportunity for the community for “new growth” of current programs in the gym and park. “And the only way I can close is to say,” he said, singing in the familiar cadence of the Mickey Mouse Club tune, “Now it’s time to say goodbye to all our family.… RAP says goodbye to Aliso-Pico Park.” The Reverend K. W. Tulloss, pastor of the Weller Street Missionary Baptist Church, and Jesuit Father Scott Santarosa, pastor of Dolores Mission and a board member of Proyecto Pastoral, also spoke. Both clergymen lauded the new arrangement for the popular park and gym.“I believe this is going to be a blessing to our community,” said Rev. Tulloss. “For an organization like Proyecto to come in, it really benefits our children and gives them a safe place and opportunity to continue to grow and become those young men and women we need for them to become.“This is a special day in Boyle Heights. I know my congregation is looking forward to the great things to come, all the wonderful programs. And we’re going to continue the legacy of this park.”Father Santarosa admitted he was biased concerning Proyecto Pastoral, which fellow Jesuits helped to initiate. He said the fact that the City of Los Angeles and its Housing Authority were willing to turn over management of the park to the local organization was a real compliment. Indeed, the move carried a lot of responsibility, but the inner-city pastor was sure the group was up to it.“Proyecto already has an early childhood education center and an after-school program,” he pointed out. “They already serve the homeless by housing men in our church. And through the parish, they also have Safe Passage, where members stand on street corners to make sure kids get to and from school.“Because they already have so much of a connection with the community, that sets them up, I think, to better listen to the community. And if you listen to what the needs are, you can better serve the community. If you were an outside entity that came in and just offered services, you wouldn’t have that connection. But that’s not a criticism of the Department of Recreation and Parks. They were doing a very good job.”Building on successCynthia Sanchez, executive director of Proyecto Pastoral, stressed that her organization would, in fact, be building on the success of the Department of Recreation and Parks. The dance, gymnastics, music and cheer programs would all continue starting Aug. 19, along with the expansion of Proyecto’s early childhood and IMPACTO efforts. The new partnership will also include the Aliso Business Community, which has supported local youth programs for decades.“Our focus has always been on the Pico-Aliso community, which is essentially public housing — Pico Gardens and Aliso Village,” she stressed. “So the park here, this recreation center, is at the core of the community. And it’s an incredible facility. I mean, you can see this beautiful baseball diamond and lawn. And the new gym was built in 2009. “So for us to be able to expand our youth work is very exciting. And IMPACTO is not just homework assistance and tutoring. It’s leadership development, college planning and support for parents to help them be strong educational advocates for their children. “That’s our key priority,” said Sanchez, “and now we’re almost doubling the size of our youth programs.”Carlos Jimenez was walking around Aliso Pico Park Aug. 2 with a camera slung over his neck, stopping to take shots of kids in the sack races, face-painting venue and other outdoor happenings. The 21-year-old had testified before the Housing Authority board earlier this summer. “I just told them how it would help the community and have an impact if Proyecto took charge here,” he said. “And now kids have got a safer place to play and a good environment to be in after school. I was with IMPACTO 13 years, and they gave me all the help I needed to get through high school. So I’m just trying to give back to my community and volunteer as much as I can.”{gallery width=100 height=100}gallery/2013/0809/proyecto/{/gallery}