Adapting has helped Maryvale thrive for last 164 years

| September 2, 2020 | 0 Comments

CHILDREN dig into the donations at the former Los Angeles Orphan Asylum in Boyle Heights before the move to Rosemead in 1953.

“Adapt and survive” could be one of 2020’s most-used catchphrases as people and organizations scrabble to figure out what works in a year crowded with a pandemic, economic crisis, and several other critical events. It also could be said to be the motto of Maryvale, Los Angeles’ oldest children’s charity as what began as an orphanage in 1856 adapts once again to meet the needs of children in Los Angeles. Leaders at Maryvale might, instead of “adapt and survive,” point to one of their core values, “inventiveness to infinity,” as a driving principle.

Program ends

In August, Maryvale shuttered its residential program (Short-Term Residential Therapeutic Program), the most recent iteration of the orphanage. While that seems like a loss, Maryvale’s keeping open its early education centers and other family programs throughout the COVID-19 shutdowns has been a triumph in many ways.

The residential program was not shut down due to the pandemic, but had more to do with the need to meet changing state mandates and models for children and family services.

Daycare programs

Many of the parents served by Maryvale’s education centers and other services are in jobs considered essential during the pandemic. These parents would not otherwise have a place for their children to be while the parents are at work, says Steve Gunther, CEO at Maryvale. And approximately 60 percent qualify for income-based help, he added. Maryvale has been able to adjust to meet that need.

He and Serena Bernolak, director of development at Maryvale, pointed out to the Chronicle that the early education centers at Rosemead and Duarte are for children ages infant to five years, but Maryvale also has other family and wrap-around services, such as before- and after-school care programs for older kids, and a distance learning support program. So older students have had a safe, stable place with access to the internet to do their schoolwork. But Gunther believes there is more that Maryvale can do to help meet the needs of these families.

Next evolution

Currently, there are still discussions as to how Maryvale, and the Los Angeles Orphanage Guild that supports it, will evolve. The education centers are not operating up to capacity because of the pandemic, but now there also are residential buildings that are empty and another four acres that are undeveloped that could be of use. Discussions about future use of those parts of Maryvale’s Rosemead campus consist of whether it should include transitional or temporary housing, or how it could be used in other ways. Gunther said it’s a matter of how best Maryvale can evolve and be mindful of the needs of the families it serves.

Not a stranger to change

MARYVALE established a second Early Education and Family Resource center in Duarte in 2011.

Maryvale was initially established by five nuns from the Daughters of Charity, who traveled from Maryland to meet the needs of the moment in Los Angeles, which in 1856 was to help the many homeless children living on the streets.

As the needs of orphans in Los Angeles grew and changed, Maryvale, at the time known as the Los Angeles Orphan Asylum, moved from being an orphanage and a hospital — in a wood frame house where Union Station now sits — to Boyle Heights in 1891. There it was able to expand and help up to 8,000 children until growth, earthquake damage and freeway construction meant a move to Rosemead in 1952.

The Los Angeles Orphanage Guild was borne out of the need of Maryvale to raise money for its move to Rosemead, another adaptation to the needs of the moment. Since then, the Guild has helped support the children in residence. Now, with no more residents, the Guild, too, must change to meet the moment.

Gunther pointed out that the early education center in Rosemead came about in 1968 because the Daughters of Charity saw the need and adapted to meet it.

Moving forward

The core values of Maryvale are based on ideals espoused by the Daughters of Charity (who are still involved with Maryvale) and based on the lives of St. Vincent de Paul and St. Louise de Marillac: respect, compassionate service, simplicity, advocacy for the poor and inventiveness to infinity.

Maryvale again is adapting to serve its community, and it is working on finding the best way to do that. To learn more about them or how you can help, visit

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Category: Real Estate

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