NORTHRIDGE, LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Playing soccer with an emu isn't an uncommon sight at the LAPD Devonshire PALS Youth Center in Northridge. The nonprofit provides kids and teens with a safe haven to participate in activities.
"We pride ourselves in creating the narrative that really exemplifies what community policing is and bridging the gap between our youth, our community, and our police officers," said LAPD Devonshire PALS Executive Director Edgar Sedano.
"You get to see a lot of people, you meet new people and you get to see officers," said LAPD Devonshire PALS participant Daniela Martinez.
The youth center had to shut down for two months at the beginning of the year due to COVID restrictions. But even when the center was closed, the organization continued to give the community support.
"We became a massive community center for this entire neighborhood and handed out over half a million meals to the kids. I am so proud of the work we did when we were shut down," said LAPD Devonshire PALS Board President Laine Caspi.
The center recently opened back up to the public and officers and staff members say they are happy to welcome back the kids.
"Our kids were extremely excited to be back. Some of them because they live in apartments or in apartment complexes, they don't have a yard or somewhere to play. This is their place to come and enjoy some recreational activities," said Sedano.
Since 1973, LAPD Devonshire PALS has been helping kids get involved in various activities, including playing soccer with Tina the emu.
"The kids love it because they're dealing with the animals and everything. But this is teaching them responsibility. We're out here to help them, to help the community and keep everybody safe," said LAPD Officer Matt Connell.
The LAPD Devonshire PALS organization relies heavily on donations at fundraising events. To help raise money for the youth center, they will be hosting a charity poker tournament on April 23.
"We need your help; we need your support. And we'd love to see everybody out there having fun with us," said Sedano.
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LAPD Devonshire PALS bridges gap between community and police officers with their youth center
Officers and staff members at LAPD Devonshire PALS say they are happy to welcome back kids and teens at the youth center.
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