Photo by Flickr user Lisa Newton/ Creative Commons
Maggie Aguilar, 46, has lived in the Ramona Gardens Public Housing complex her entire life. Today, she is president of the Ramona Gardens Resident Advsiory Council (RAC), a resident advocacy organization spearheaded in its current form by the Housing Authority of the City of Los Angeles (HACLA) in 2007.
RAC is a volunteer-based group that provides different types of services to the residents of Ramona Gardens. Such events include Cinco de Mayo and Dia de los Muertos celebrations, Easter egg hunts, clothes and food drives, as well as extensive activities with senior citizens.
RAC also collaborates with Hollenbeck Police Station who work in Ramona Gardens to bring sporting opportunities to the youth in the area.
Aguilar views her post as more than a job. She sees her position as a real opportunity to provide lasting impact within the oldest public housing project in Los Angeles.
Recently, she sat down with us to tell us about her work:
BHB: What is RAC’s relationship with Ramona Gardens residents like?
MA: We are here to help the residents. For example, residents come to us if they need help looking for an address; if they are not sure of something. I help them with paperwork; I help them fill out the Lifeline, or if they are applying for social security, I help them bring all their information. Also, when they do our yearly lease, they’ll come in and bring me everything and we do the paperwork. Basically its all volunteer-based and we’re here to help the residents make this a safer and better place to live.
And for the kids, whoever needs folders, paper, backpacks or school supplies, they come in and they take it. We try to serve at least 200 kids”” this year we served about 300 kids.
BHB: What is RAC currently working on?
MA: Right now we are working on a program called the College Corner where students from USC will come here and help our kids with tutoring. They will also have students from UCLA, Cal State LA and some from Fullerton coming. Also, every year we have a football clinic where the players from USC and UCLA come. And they are here every year with RAC sponsoring all the food. We are teaming up with the DreamCenter, so that’s a big blessing on our behalf.
BHB: How was this community when you were growing up?
MA: When I was growing up here, it was all about the gangs. It changed when they brought in that gang injunction in 2007. Before that, the gangs were still an issue. They never really bothered the residents though, they just did what every other gang does. Ever since then, our community is safer. You don’t see too much of those gang members running around anymore. Now there is laughter in the community; there are families having bbq’s; kids skateboarding and riding bikes; parents out there walking with their kids”” it’s a nice and beautiful place to live. I wouldn’t leave this area for any other area because I’ve known it for so many years. There’s a lot of trust here. We lean on one another if we ever have a problem, its like one big family.
BHB: You’re on your second year out a three-year term. Is there a possibliity to extend your term?
MA: No that’s it. Next year I’m done. Right now I’m trying to talk to some residents and see if any of them want to be president so I can still come in and help them. But its changed. Our community has changed a whole lot, and it’s for the better.