first_imgThe organization’s silkscreen and embroidery business, Homeboy Silkscreen, which last year posted $1 million in sales, will continue to be housed at its Santa Fe Avenue location. Tuesday’s ceremony drew Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and a host of dignitaries. The center is a far cry from Boyle’s and Homeboy Industries’ humble beginnings. In the late 1980s, Boyle, a Jesuit priest, used to ride around on a beach cruiser bicycle engaging the most troubled youth in the gang-infested neighborhoods surrounding Dolores Mission Church in Boyle Heights, where he served as pastor. Villaraigosa praised Boyle for his unwavering drive to reach out to modern-day “lepers,” troubled youth scorned by society. “We fear them, keep away from them,” Villaraigosa said. “We want someone else to deal with them.” Father Gregory Boyle, the charismatic priest who has never met a troubled kid he didn’t want to help, joined city leaders and plenty of homeboys and homegirls Tuesday at the grand opening of Homeboy Industries’ new downtown center. The Fran and Ray Stark Center, an $8.5 million, 21,000-square-foot, two-story building near Union Station, will house a state-of-the-art 5,000-square-foot bakery, replacing the previous bakery that burned in a 1999 fire. The center will serve as headquarters for the nonprofit organization, replacing the much smaller Boyle Heights storefront location, and will include an expanded Homegirl Cafe, offering breakfast and lunch, as well as classrooms and a computer lab. The new building will allow for expanded counseling and tattoo removal services, as well as a storefront to sell Homeboy Industries merchandise. Boyle is like Jesus Christ, a shepherd sent to heal the sick, Villaraigosa said. For Boyle, it’s about teaching young people that their lives have meaning and they have the potential to soar. “Everybody learns to be the truth of what they are,” Boyle said. “We all want to be taught to fly.” For those who are skeptical about how much gang members, drug addicts and other troubled youth can possibly be reformed, Boyle has one suggestion: “I tell them to come here,” Boyle said, standing outside the new center Tuesday in front of about 800 cheering people. “Come here.” Homeboy Industries’ Luis “Lulu” Rivera – who first met Boyle as a 14-year-old gang member in 1988 – said Boyle has helped him come full circle. Rivera, 32, an employment counselor who throughout the last decade has worked his way through the ranks of the organization, said Boyle has literally put himself in the line of fire and has earned the respect of generations of kids. “That’s why we call him G Dog,” said Rivera, who has survived being shot three times and sees himself today as a big brother to many of the kids who come through the program. Rivera thinks it’s pretty amazing he has the opportunity to help some of the same Dolores Mission mothers who first joined hands with Boyle to find jobs for kids like himself back in the early days. “I work hard to find them employment as a token of my gratitude for their efforts,” Rivera said. Natalie Gutierrez, 17, of City Terrace began working through the program three years ago so that her single-parent mother wouldn’t have to worry about buying her shoes and clothes. Currently, the Roosevelt High School student works as Rivera’s assistant, but she won’t be there long. She is a volunteer at White Memorial Hospital and said she hopes it will help her reach her goal of becoming a registered nurse someday. [email protected] (818) 713-3329160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!last_img read more