YMCA hopes to open neighborhood park with the help of community


Westchester Family YMCA Executive Director John Loussararian is always looking for new ways to help build a stronger community, so when Westchester residents Eli and Brent Wagner walked into his office with an idea, he was eager to listen.

Pictured Above:  The roughly 3,000-square-foot lot will hopefully be home to a community park complete with a professional playset, if enough funds are raised.

The Wagners, who have lived in Westchester since 2012 and are new parents to eight-month-old Maya, had been walking their neighborhood in search of a small pocket park with a simple swing or slide to bring their daughter to. Although they didn’t find a park within walking distance from their home, when they came across an empty triangle-shaped dirt lot behind the YMCA on Alverstone Ave., they had an idea: why not approach the YMCA about converting the space into a small community park that could be open to all local parents looking for a safe place for their children to play and meet other families?

As luck would have it, Loussararian was already working with local Boy Scout David Lewins on beautifying and making use of the lot for his Eagle Scout Project. Lewins’ goal was to create a small garden where people could meet or get some fresh air. After hearing the Wagners’ vision for the land, Loussararian and the YMCA board were eager to join the projects together to create a complete vision for the space that could be accessible to all.

Said Loussararian, “After hearing the Wagner’s ideas, I thought it would be a good opportunity to marry the two projects. Then we could have a playground on one end, where kids could come play, and on the other end a place of solace, where people could read or parents and community members could meet.”

Lewins is in the process of completing his project on the approximately 3,000-square-foot lot, which includes putting down decomposed granite and gravel, planting native vegetation and adding benches.

With the approvals in place for the community park portion of the project, the only obstacle now is raising enough money to purchase professional playground equipment, which can cost tens of thousands of dollars.

While the YMCA is hopeful that a grant they applied for will come through to help offset the cost of a playset, the size and type will be determined by how much money can be raised.


Pictured Above: The Wagner family is spearheading the creation of the park and is holding a fundraiser to help pay for the playground equipment.

The Wagners are currently spearheading the efforts to raise the needed funds to purchase the playground equipment and will be holding a fundraising event, “Sauce Angeles 2016,” on Saturday, January 30 starting at 3 p.m. at the YMCA’s Annex, located at 8020 Alverstone Ave. in Westchester. At the event, community members acting as chefs will make their best pasta sauce and attendees will have the opportunity to sample the sauces and vote on their favorites, while enjoying pasta, pizza, bread, beer and wine.

All of the proceeds from the event will go towards the park. The Wagners are hoping to raise $10,000 at the event and tickets are $125 each.

The Westchester Family YMCA, which currently serves 3,700 households in a service area that includes Westchester, Playa del Rey, Playa Vista and Marina del Rey, sees the opportunity to create the park as just another way to help fulfill its mission to be a good neighborhood partner and promote wellness in the community.

“The Y’s purpose is to strengthen the foundations of community through nurturing the potential of our youth and teens, improving the health and wellness of the communities we serve and influencing our neighbors to support and give back,” said Loussararian. “These two projects are in perfect alignment with the Y’s purpose.”

If the grant comes through and enough money is raised, the goal is to have a community workday in April to help work on the lot and have the space dedicated and open to the public in May.

For more information about the Sauce Angeles fundraiser or to buy tickets, please visit sauceoff.com.