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A clean start

November 27, 1999|By Leslie Simmons

BURBANK -- Pastor Paul Mikov has a message for those who want to get

rid of unwanted tattoos -- laser them off.

Mikov, the pastor at Burbank Seventh-day Adventist Church, has

embarked on a program funded by the Adventist Development and Relief

Agency, which will allow 30 Burbank residents to have tattoos removed

free of charge. In exchange, participants must agree to perform community

service.

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The program, he said, is geared toward those with tattoos that reflect

a past they want to forget.

"Many tattoos carry some horrible stories," Mikov said. "They might

have a change in their life or want to get rid of the burden of the

past."

Mikov decided to start a program in Burbank after the success of a

similar program he was involved with at the San Pedro Seventh-day

Adventist Church.

More than two hundred people, many of them former gang members, have

benefited from the San Pedro program, Mikov said.

"Some people are significantly affected by their past," Mikov said.

"We want people to experience restoration and ultimately healing."

Removing a tattoo usually takes about five treatments, each lasting

only a few minutes. The treatments are spaced six to eight weeks apart,

said Dr. Steven Popkow, who administers the laser treatments at his

office in Los Angeles.

But while the end result can help change lives, having the procedure

performed is not a pleasant experience.

"The treatment does hurt," Popkow said. "People say they hurt 50% more

than when they got the tattoo."

Popkow said he has removed an wide assortment of tattoos including

such sinister symbols as a tear drop in the corner of the eye, a

relatively common gang marking in Southern California, and neo-Nazi

tattoos. "We've had people with satanic-type of tattoos," he said.

"There was one man who had '666' on his forehead."

Mikov said that only those people with tattoos on their hands, arms,

face and neck -- the most visible and the ones most likely to stand in

the way of employment opportunities -- are eligible for the program.

"They want to start a new life," he said. "It's their chance at

pursuing happiness."

Being chosen for the program does come with a price. Each participant

will be required to do five hours of community service in Burbank for

every treatment.

"We want them to do something in return," he said. "Those who take

things for granted don't seem to value things for free. If they do

something for it, it has worth; it's valuable."

Those who want to take part in the program must apply and be

interviewed. Once selected, participants will meet with Popkow and learn

about the procedure and how the program works, Mikov said.

TATTOO REMOVAL

WHAT: Tattoo Removal Program sponsored by the Burbank Seventh-day

Adventist Church

PHONE: 848-7051

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