McConnell neighbors yard sale; Mass for Jessica

A group called the Los Angeles Turners, said to be the oldest German-American organization in Southern California, proposes to turn the former Westchester Library building at Sepulveda Eastway and Westchester Parkway into “The Turner Center.”

The center would be home to the organization’s regular choir rehearsals, social and cultural events and “Movie Sundays.”

Eventually, the Turners would also like to hold practice for their fencing team there on Saturdays as well.

The group is applying for a parking variance, and its engineers are currently working on the plans for upgrading of electrical, mechanical and plumbing.

The Los Angeles Turners were previously located near the intersection of Wilshire Boulevard and Highland Avenue in Los Angeles, but their clubhouse lacked the configuration needed for the growing group and the former residential building lacked a much-needed central hall.

As the group searched the Los Angeles area for a new clubhouse, it fell in love with the former library’s old stone structure, its high ceilings, and large hall. After some negotiations, the building was purchased in December 2005 for $1.675 million. The old library could eventually seat as many as 240 people.

Dennis Fredricks, the club’s president since 1996, calls the building a “gem” and says, “The neighbors are going to see the same building. It would be a crime to tear it down; instead we are going to lovingly restore it.”

Although the Turners have no plans to change the exterior or knock down any walls, they plan to lay down new wood flooring for dancing and fencing, fix the doors and improve the outdated bathrooms.

Although the club, which has more than 100 members, has its roots in physical fitness and German and Austrian heritage, the club’s primary focus today is social. Similar to an Elks or Masonic lodge, the club members meet to enjoy each other’s company, for business mixers, and to support classic music, opera, fencing and choir music.

Currently, the club’s fencing practice takes place at Lindberg Park in Culver City, but once the new floor is put in to the library building, the club hopes to hold fencing practice and even fencing competitions at the Westchester site.

The Turners have a unique and interesting history, which includes serving as bodyguards for President Abraham Lincoln, and in 1948, they even had a commemorative stamp made in their honor. But perhaps one of the group’s most lasting achievements is its role as lobbyists to get physical education in schools when exercise was an overlooked necessity.

Today, the Los Angeles Turners contribute to public radio, opera competitions and youth athletics and actively support events that perpetuate German, Austrian and Swiss culture in the Western United States.

Information www.laturners .com/.

YARD SALE TO SUPPORT LMU NEIGHBORS — The residents of the 7700 block of McConnellÝAvenue will hold a yard sale from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, September 29th, to help raise money for the McConnell Quality of Life Group.

The group needs the funds to pay for legal and land-use consultant fees incurred while advocating for the relocation of Loyola Marymount University’s Re- cycling, Maintenance and Operations Facility.

The facility, which they say generates noise, odors and vermin, is within 12.5 feet of the property lines of the single-family homes on McConnell.

All donations, including money, saleable goods and services, can be delivered to Linda Kokelaar, 7721 McConnell Ave. in Westchester.

HEALING MASS FOR JESSICA — The parents of Jessica Leoni are sponsoring a special Mass, at Westchester’s Church of the Visitation, for Jessica, who suffers from the devastating neurological condition known as Niemann-Pick Type C (NP-C) disease.

This disorder causes progressive deterioration of the central nervous system due to the body’s inability to metabolize cholesterol. Consequently, large amounts of cholesterol accumulate within the liver, spleen, and brain. This metabolic disorder leads to a series of neurological problems and has been termed the childhood form of Alzheimer’s. Children with this disorder rarely live into their teenage years.

Currently, there is no treatment for the disease, and until recently, there has been little known about NP-C. Without a cure or treatment, victims of this syndrome gradually lose their ability to look up and down, walk, talk, control their muscles, eat, and grow. It is ultimately fatal.

“We hope to make the Healing Mass an annual event,” said Jessica’s father, Anthony Leoni. “We invite all who want their own healing to take place. The Healing Mass is for everyone.”

Mass will be held at 7 p.m. Thursday, September 27th, at the church, 6561 W. 88th St. in Westchester.

“We welcome people of all faiths to come and worship and pray and show their support,” Leoni said. “Jessica has brought all kinds of people together. It is appropriate we all gather as one, with many faiths, pray for her healing, as well as the healing of others.”

Information about Jessica or the disease she is fighting, www