Ebell Rest Cottage fêtes its 100th year of service

| May 31, 2018 | 0 Comments

EBELL REST COTTAGE garden circa 1930s.

The Ebell of Los Angeles has a chorale, a costume department and a bridge club.

“What most people don’t know is that we’re also really very heavily involved in social services,” said Randi Jones, director of The Rest Cottage Association (RCA), a nonprofit  arm of The Ebell.

“This is one of the oldest philanthropies in Los Angeles, and we want as many people as we can to know about it,” Jones added.

The RCA recently marked its 100th year, and while the group’s actual “rest home” was sold 38 years ago, proceeds from the sale were invested and have grown to a $3 million-plus endowment fund.

“The job of the RCA is two-fold: we have to preserve and protect the endowment … and choose charities that help needy women and their children in Los Angeles County,” Jones explained.

Ten groups benefited with more than $10,000 each in 2017, including Alexandria House, a nearby transitional housing facility, and Families in Criminal Justice, among them.

Applications are being accepted through June 30 for the 2019-20 year. About two dozen groups apply each year for a portion of the more than $100,000 of funds available.

Jones, who is in her second year of a two-year term, joined The Ebell five years ago after hearing about its recently resurrected Social Services Committee.

Co-chaired by Cynthia Comsky and Janna Bodek Harris, the committee’s job is to “provide hands-on services to RCA charities,” said Jones.

“There was a time we just gave them a check and at the end of the year looked at the new applications and that was it.

“Now we are as hands-on as we can be,” said Jones.

The native New Yorker was a corporate litigator in Manhattan before moving west with her family and eventually settling on Irving Blvd. in Windsor Square. She went back to school and after graduating from USC with a degree in clinical psychology and aging, she promptly became a “professional volunteer.”

It wasn’t long before she found her way to The Ebell.

Rest Cottage

The Ebell’s Rest Cottage Association began in 1918, a year after a member, Lillian Flanders, donated a small home at W. 95th St. “Staffed by volunteers from The Ebell, the building was named the Rest Cottage and was dedicated to providing care to help women recuperate from surgery, serious illness, or, sometimes, breakdowns due to overwork. It provided the rest and quiet they needed to allow them to resume their pre-illness occupations,” explained Jones.

RCA membership originally cost $1 and members also volunteered as fund-raisers and helped with chores and errands.

A larger property was acquired at 135 N. Park View St. and the architectural firm of Sumner Hunt and Silas Burns was commissioned to build the new 14-room Rest Cottage. According to legend (“it would be cool if it turns out to be true”) architect Julia Morgan — who designed San Simeon — designed the new home constructed on the site in 1924.

Politics and lifestyle would change the group’s trajectory. In 1965, President Johnson signed laws creating Medicare and Medicaid, making many of the services offered at the home less urgent. And women were entering the work force in droves and were less able to volunteer.

Today’s members, however, do much the same as its earliest members, helping wherever they can, but their dues have increased to $12 annually, and they visit beneficiary sites on a regular basis.

“It gives us a better understanding of who our charities are, and also our members get to know them and vice versa,”  Jones said.

Members serve dinner monthly to the mothers and children at Alexandria House and, depending on the needs, might collect sheets and toiletries for a domestic violence shelter.

“Today’s Ebell Rest Cottage Association is devoted to the same three principles on which it was founded: Relief, Compassion, and Action. R-C-A. These are what our volunteers have provided to the needy women of Los Angeles County for 100 years, and these are what we will continue to provide as we move into our second century,” Jones said.

100 years

The RCA received a birthday present at its 100th year celebration April 23 when Ebell member Olivia Headley donated $10,000.

Headley is interested in assisting victims of domestic violence, a leading cause of injury to women in the United States — more than car accidents, muggings, and rape combined, an Ebell spoksman said.

Headley, who is a nationally known parliamentarian, is a life member of The Ebell and the Rest Cottage Association.

Founded in 1894, the Ebell, at 743 S. Lucerne Blvd., includes a clubhouse and 1,270-seat theater and offers a chorale, art salon, book group, knitters and bridge among its multitude of programs. For information on membership contact Meredyth Deighton, 323-931-1277, ext. 133, meredyth@ebelloflosangeles.com

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