One Tough Mother

By Laura Laughlin Sophia Lopez-Espindola's grassroots organization has survived bullets, business setbacks and political pitfalls

Jose Oromi, who directs the urban part of the project, says Lopez-Espindola's group is providing the three necessary elements for success. But Save the Children believes the center can use money and advice to become even more effective.

He says Save the Children has spent $100,000 at the Glendale Youth Center, where Mothers Against Gangs was brought in to start youth groups. At the Phoenix center, Save the Children has contributed another $100,000 in cash, training and in-kind services; more than $44,000 has been pledged for next year.

Oromi says exchanging ideas among the Web of Support sites is a key component to the program. One organization from Bridgeport, Connecticut, has visited Phoenix to study Mothers Against Gangs' methods. And lessons learned from the Phoenix organization are being shared internationally, with Latin American countries that are facing similar gang issues, he says.

Armando Flores, executive vice president of APS, is also helping to restructure and strengthen Mothers Against Gangs. Earlier this year, he and others helped the group change its board membership to include fewer well-meaning but inexperienced mothers and more business-savvy community representatives.

He says successful citizens need to do their part to address the problem of gangs. "It's easy to go into your gated community and not worry about it. But if we turn our backs on it as if it's not our problem, we're kidding ourselves," Flores says.

Lopez-Espindola marvels at how far her organization has come since 1992.

"I feel that I've made a difference," she says. "This is a lot more than I imagined. All I wanted was a little group for mothers to talk about what they had gone through."

Read more of our Hard Core stories.

Contact Laura Laughlin at her online address: llaughlin@newtimes.com

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