In 1850, El Pueblo de Nuestra Senora la Reina de Los Angeles was an incorporated city of 1,610, a figure that would nearly triple 10 years later (to 4,385), and swell by 1890 to nearly 51,000. Monterey Bishop Thaddeus Amat saw the many needs facing the Los Angeles area in the 1850s. He especially noted an increase in the number of children, mainly orphans, living on the streets of the city with virtually no one to protect them, the sick and poor. So it was with foresight that Bishop Amat asked the Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul to come to Los Angeles to establish an orphanage and care for the sick. The Daughters of Charity arrived in 1856 to found Maryvale, the first orphanage in Los Angeles, as well as St. Vincent Hospital.In the ensuing 155 years, the Daughters of Charity have never stopped serving the people of Los Angeles in accordance with their Vincentian mission of “assisting the poor in every way.” Most recently they celebrated the opening and blessing of their new building at their site in Duarte, the Maryvale Family Resource and Early Education Center.‘A necessary resource’As he blessed the new facility, and walked through each classroom, play area and activity room during the July 9 dedication ceremony, Archbishop José Gomez praised the beauty of the setting, calling it “a wonderful and necessary resource” for the eastern San Gabriel Valley — a region with beautiful homes located just a few miles from those living in poverty.The new Maryvale Family Resource Center, which actually opened its doors in February, offers considerably more space for children and parents in need of assistance. Mellie Stobart, site director, says that in the seven months since the opening of the new building, the number of those receiving services (parents and children of all ages) has doubled. During the day children sleep, eat balanced meals, have regular supervised naptimes, experience organized play time, enjoy water play on warm days, and participate in early education learning experiences — all age-appropriate. One-on-one assistance is provided for those toddlers and younger children who must be fed, have their diapers changed and receive special attention.Parents are likewise provided many resources and opportunities to participate in support programs, including evening education programs and family night classes. Recently 120 families participated in a Maryvale “Picnic Under the Stars” event. “Maryvale is a place for parents to meet each other and feel more a part of us, too,” says Terri Cabildo, coordinator of Maryvale’s Early Education Centers in Rosemead and Duarte.‘Fulfillment, dignity, self-esteem’Maryvale was first called the Los Angeles Orphan Asylum, originally at the site of Los Angeles Union Station. Alert to the signs of the times and the needs of the community, the Daughters of Charity, whose mission is always to “help each child achieve fulfillment, dignity and self-esteem in an environment of stability, love and respect,” have consistently provided services to children in need. Since 1953, the Maryvale facility in Rosemead has offered residential care and mental health services for girls ages 6-17, many of whom have suffered from abuse and/or neglect. The Daughters of Charity also operate an After Care Program to support former residents as well as Transitional Housing in El Monte.Maryvale’s Early Education Program began in Duarte in 1999, the predecessor to the new facility designed to serve families in need.“People need to understand that we’re really here for the community and the children,” says Terri Cabildo, coordinator of the Maryvale Early Education Centers in Rosemead and Duarte. “It’s not just a childcare center. It is about treating the child and family unit, whatever that might be, with dignity and respect — and all for the betterment of the child.”Critical needsThe number of children living in poverty is at a critical level in the United States as governmental support services are cut across the nation. Today in California more than 9 million children (or 20 percent of the state’s total) live in families with incomes below the federal poverty level. Food insecurity plagues 25 percent of households with children. More than 40 percent of families who rent their homes spend more than a third of their income on rent and go without food. And five percent of poor children live in families with no parent present.Throughout their service here, the Daughters of Charity have remained focused on the needs of the poor, especially children. “Maryvale is accomplishing its dreams,” says Stobart. “At first it seemed like an almost impossible dream, and we have come from very humble beginnings. But we always had the vision. And now to see the reality — it makes me speechless and in awe.”Now there is a new dream list that includes assistance with costs for families who cannot afford even minimal charges. Stobart and Cabildo would like to offer yoga classes to parents, childcare so parents can fully participate in programs without worry, and more nights with activities for the whole family, like the successful “Picnic Under the Stars.” The goal is to offer families in need “a safe place for all to come,” says Stobart, adding that funding for such efforts is an ongoing challenge. “The dream does go on,” says Stobart. “There’s so much more we want to do, and need to do, to meet the needs of the community.”{gallery width=100 height=100}gallery/2011/0902/maryvale/{/gallery}