By Rommel Conclara, ABS-CBN North America Bureau
October 21, 2014
SAN FRANCISCO – The South of Market or the SOMA is a neighborhood in San Francisco that houses major technology companies like Twitter and Pinterest.
The SOMA also has a notorious reputation for not being one of the safest neighborhoods where some fall victims of gang violence and drug dealing.
Filipinos make up a big part of the population in the South of Market and one former gang member made it his mission 20 years ago to do what he could to keep kids away from the dangers of the streets.
Rudy Corpuz Jr. founded the United Playaz which is a violence prevention and mentorship program and today they celebrate two decades of helping the youth.
“You know I’m very honored and blessed,” said Corpuz. “Twenty years of pushing a line of saving lives and silencing the violence to me is amazing and a miracle. I just want to say I know a lot of people focus on the work that I do but to be honest it’s my staff that makes it happen. They [are] front line soldiers on ground zero pushing the real line to save lives.”
One member of Corpuz’s staff, Filipino-American Eric Fructuoso passed away from a heart attack in 2011 and on this 20th year celebration United Playaz is dedicating the building in his name.
Fructuoso’s family was in attendance for the dedication and saw how Eric was loved by the community.
“I think Eric would be saying something similar that it’s always about the people,” said Corpuz. “There was a quote that was said by Bill Sorro, a mentor of both me and Eric. He said we don’t do it for the people; we do it with the people. So I know Eric is right there in heaven saying that this is with the people.”
“Rudy has done so much for our family not only for his funeral but he’s done a lot for my brother,” said Isabel Fructuoso, sister of Eric. “For all the things my brother has done for the community, he’s given my brother the opportunity to do a lot of that stuff.”
Political figures also participated in the celebration with a San Francisco proclamation and a resolution from the State Senate that honored United Playaz years of community service.
Former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown was also in attendance to remind the community that he and United Playaz are still raising funds so the organization can own the building.
Representatives from the technology companies answered Mayor Brown’s call with their own donations.
Tech-giant Ron Conway already donated $35,000 while Pinterest donated $10,000 and will continue their on-going partnership with the organization like throwing holiday parties and touring the company.
Twitter also promised to match every new donation up to $10,000.
Corpuz says that the eventual ownership of the building is not the final goal. He plans on opening United Playaz chapters all over the world so children can be free of violence and have a chance at a brighter future.
You can contact Rommel Conclara at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @rommelconclara for more information.