By CBSLA Staff

LITTLE TOKYO (CBSLA) — After its opening was slowed by the COVID pandemic, a new community center in Little Tokyo is hoping residents will be able to start using its facilities this summer.

Helen Lopez, 10, lives in Downtown Los Angeles and is walking distance from the city’s newest after-school program that has been out of reach because of the pandemic.

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At the Terasaki Budokah community center she would have access to high-speed internet

“The internet at my house sometimes it disconnects me and I won’t be able to rejoin sometimes,” she said.

Ryan Lee is the director of the community center that bridges Little Tokyo’s history with its changing landscape.

There’s a playground in a part of town with zero green space.

“In a place that’s overwhelmingly gray it’s really important for kids to get the opportunity to see what it’s like to run around in a park or a rec center in their backyard,” said Lee.

“Back in November, it was used as a voting center and more recently we had a vaccine clinic because many people could not go to the mega sites,” said Terasaki Budokan’s Mike Murase.

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The facility is the product of quarter centuries worth of fundraising by people like Murase who want to preserve and share Little Tokyo’s rich history.

It was completed last year, but the pandemic prevented its grand opening.

This summer, it will start hosting programs for senior citizens and youth sports.

Jackie Waight is the youth services coordinator for the Little Tokyo Service Center which provides affordable housing and tutoring to kids like Helen.

“We hope to empower them to think that they can dream as big as they want and they can achieve that,” she said.

Helen says she dreams of becoming a doctor one day.

When I’m older, I want to take them out from work, my mom and dad, because they don’t sleep a lot.

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Whether it’s tutoring or youth sports, the goal is to provide a better shot.