In Richman Park in south Fullerton, once a hotspot of crime and gang activity, something new is growing. The Richman Community Center partners with organizations like CSUF, the YMCA, and the City of Fullerton to provide free services to the community, including family support, counseling, health assessment/management, tutoring, and more.
On Friday, Nov 2, the Center hosted an open house to show all the services and resources they have to offer the community.
Dr. Jessie Jones, director of the Center for Healthy Neighborhoods, a program through CSUF, helped get the project going.
“It was a partnership between the city of Fullerton and Cal State Fullerton to help revitalize the neighborhoods in Fullerton, because certain parts of Fullerton don’t have the advantages of other parts,” said Jones.
Through the Center, CSUF students get internship opportunities to apply what they’ve been learning in the classroom, in fields such as social work, counseling, child and adolescent studies, human services, nursing, finance literacy, and education. Over 100 students from various disciplines come out and volunteer.
Part of the work of the Center involves training residents of the surrounding neighborhoods to be community leaders.
One such community leader is Carime Calixto, who helped organize the open house event. She has been involved with the Community Center for three years.
“I just want to help,” said Calixto, “I’m not rich, you know. But I can help and give information on everything they offer in the center… this is like a treasure, and people don’t know it’s here. The purpose of this event was to let the people know that the Center is here…everybody’s welcome.”
Community liaison officer Lucia Maturino and community leader Carime Calixto.
The community leaders work in partnership with organizations and students to address problems and issues specific to the neighborhood, such as crime, gangs, obesity/diabetes, and a lack of after-school programs for kids.
“The crime rate has gone down dramatically in this area when we have a lot more activity going on,” explained Jones, “Keeping the kids busy, they don’t join the gangs that way. We provide opportunities for the whole family.”
Maria Matza, associate professor of nursing at CSUF, was present at the open house, doing blood pressure and health screenings for residents.
“I bring students here and they do a lot of heath education,” explained Matza, “They do a lot of counseling and referrals for services for the families that work here.”
CSUF nursing professor Maria Matza does blood pressure screenings at the Center.
A few common health issues in the neighborhood are diabetes, obesity, and dental needs.
Peter, who works through the Community Action Partnership of Orange County in collaboration with St. Jude Medical Center, said, “We work in partnership in order to provide nutrition education and physical activity opportunities for the low income communities in the city of Fullerton.”
Volunteers provide healthy cooking classes and other activities through the “Move More, Eat Healthy” campaign.
Two local non-profits, Second Harvest and Pathways of Hope, also provide food distribution and resources to residents, and help those who qualify to sign up for CalFresh.
Peter said that, in addition to nutrition education, another way to promote a healthy community is by improving access to physical activity and making the community more walkable.
“If we look at our environment, automobiles are the first priority, and the pedestrian is second. So we’d like to implement changes in the community that will make it safer for people to walk and do exercise,” said Peter.
At Peter’s booth, a student volunteer from Cal State Fullerton was demonstrating how to make a healthy chia pudding.
A volunteer from CSUF gives a healthy cooking demonstration.
Patricia Torres, another volunteer at the center, provides free Zumba classes Mondays-Fridays.
“I do this because I love to be fit, and I want the community to learn that it’s good to be healthy and to have fun,” said Torres.
Also present at the open house was Lucia Maturino, the Fullerton Police Department’s community liaison officer, who does outreach with the Latino and immigrant communities in Fullerton.
“I connect with the Latino community, being fluent in Spanish, so they can build a trusting relationship with me and with the police department,” said Maturino, who sees her role as “working together as a neighborhood to empower each other to feel hope that we can better our living conditions, our environment.”
One important role of Maturino is to help build trust between the immigrant community and the police department, where historically there has been distrust.
“I’m here as a trusting person they can feel comfortable with,” she said, “the police department is not involved in any way with immigration issues, whether you have documentation or not. Our role is to be supportive and prevent crimes.”
Calixto added, “We see her and we feel comfortable. We now even know a lot of our police officers by name, and we feel comfortable…If I’m not scared of the police, I can help them, and they’ll help me, and then we’ll have a better community together.”
Patricia Torres and other volunteers give a Zumba presentation at the open house.
Ashley Flores, an intern from CSUF, provides after-school tutoring for students at the Community Center.
“We get to tutor them for one hour a week—anything they need help with,” said Flores, “Sometimes they don’t have homework and just want to hang out, talk, if anything’s on their mind—that’s kind of why we’re here too.”
Flores was showing off a project done by students to decorate the doors of the Center based on the movie Coco and Dia de Los Muertos. Visitors could vote on their favorite door.
Students at the Center do Dia de Los Muertos arts and crafts activities.
The tutoring is provided free of charge to students from surrounding schools.
Mary, the tutoring program coordinator, said that the program is “to empower students to reach their potential academically, and succeed.”
The Richman Community Center is located at 320 West Elm Avenue (in Richmond Park) and is open Monday-Friday from 8am-5pm. To learn more about CSUF’s Center for Healthy Neighborhoods Program, visit healthyneighborhoods.fullerton.edu.
Some of the community leaders who volunteer at the Richman Community Center.
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