Colleen Bennett - Sotheby's International Realty

La Verne, It’s Time to Meet Your 100-Year-Old Neighbors David & Margaret

May 11, 2009
Share this story:

dsc00055What person has not been rebellious, unruly, insubordinate, irritable, unpredictable, stressed, anxious, ill-tempered, short-tempered, bad tempered, depressed or down in the dumps at some point growing up. (That description could fit this reporter on most days.) Usually, someone we trust gives us a good kick in the pants, and we pull ourselves together.

But some young people have never had that special person looking over them. There has been no responsible individual around to show them boundaries, to tell them no, or to tell them anything at all.

986 Pharmacy

David & Margaret Youth and Family Services in La Verne has stepped into that void and currently serves 43 girls with troubled pasts. There’s probably no organization better suited for the role of giving these girls strength, self-esteem and real hope for embracing tomorrow.

“A lot of the reasons things weren’t working out for these girls was there was no constancy or consistency in their lives,” said David & Margaret spokesperson Theresa Macalino. “Nobody told them they had to do homework. Nobody told them why it was important do their homework. Here we’re trying to show them that their decisions have consequences.”

If by the time they’ve arrived at David & Margaret and the girls still haven’t figured out that their decisions produce real-world consequences, they at least realize their living conditions and circumstances have drastically changed. They’re living with other girls they’ve never met or seen and are suddenly taking orders from complete strangers. They’re issued two pillows, two pairs of shoes and other basic life supplies, no more, no less than anyone else. If you don’t care for your shoes in the proper way, you’ll bare your sole to the other girls.

Founder Henry Kuns

Founder Henry Kuns

At the same time, girls once on campus can catch their breath or start to breathe for the first time in a long while, finally safe from whatever choking circumstances had placed them at David & Margaret. The grounds are open and spacious, protruding an Ivy League feel with its seven cottages, and grand white edifice, a former hotel donated by founder Henry Kuns (yes, the same Kuns after whom Kuns Park is named) that now serves as David & Margaret’s administration building. There’s a pool and a fitness center. If everyone packed up and left tomorrow, it wouldn’t be a surprise if the Four Seasons or some other 5-star resort chain took it over converted into a spa. Yes, the grounds are that lovely!

Despite the serene and tranquil park-like setting, there’s real work and a sense of mission churning inside the gates. The girls in the Residential Program who have been referred to David & Margaret by the county Departments of Children and Family Services may be pointed toward a number of programs, including individual, group and family therapy sessions, addiction recovery programs and even special exercise and fitness programs to rebuild the girls’ self-esteem (see related story, “David & Margaret Girls Flex Muscles and New Attitude” under our Sports section). Each program is customized to each girl’s needs. The girls also continue their formal education at the Joan Macy School next door to David & Margaret.

“The word ‘cookie-cutter’ doesn’t exist here,” Macalino said.

Not a day passes that a case worker, counselor, therapist, teacher or another member of the David & Margaret intervention team doesn’t record each girl’s progress … or setbacks.

“We take baby steps to break down the walls that many of the girls have put up,” Macalino explained. “We understand the girls aren’t going to tell you their life story all at once. It’s a process. One misstep, and the walls could go back up.”

 Although the campus is open and has a “no-restraint” policy, the girls are closely supervised with regular and random bed checks. At a moment’s notice, counselors have to be ready to gather a girl for a court hearing or some other appointment in the labyrinthine social services web.

Historic photo of past residents.

Historic photo of past residents.

The David and Margaret Youth and Family Services started as an orphanage in 1910, by the Woman’s Home Missionary Society of the Methodist Episcopal Church, and has slowly been adding an impressive list of services ever since. In addition to its Residential Program, which can serve and house up to 70 girls, it offers, an Emergency Shelter, Self-Injury, Transitional Care, Mental Health, Foster Care and Adoption Services, as well as a wide array of community-based services to address alcohol and drug abuse problems, learning difficulties and a host of other issues putting the girls at risk.

“Every individual here is unique and deserves to be loved, valued, respected, safe and empowered,” Macalino said.

Aiding David & Margaret in its mission to empower children, youth and their families through culturally diverse services that foster emotional, educational, spiritual, and identity development is the David & Margaret Auxiliary. On Saturday, June 6, the Auxiliary will celebrate its 38th anniversary by hosting the “Fun in the Sun Fashion Show and Tea” on the main campus at 1350 Third Street in La Verne from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. For tickets ($38 per ticket) and sponsorships (from $50 to $1,000), call Ms. Macalino at (909) 596-5921, Ext. 3180 or contact her via email at MacalinoT@DavidandMargaret.org.

Out for a stroll under the shady canopy of trees.

Out for a stroll under the shady canopy of trees.

 The models will be girls from the school, and Macalino is working over time to ensure their day is indeed special, bringing in a deejay and a special catwalk for the girls to glide down. “We’re going all out with wardrobe and makeup,” Macalino said. “We want the girls to really feel special and loved.”

The girls will also be able to keep their fashions. Of course, such an event could not occur without strong community support. Boni Wish, owner of Wishes Boutique, is presenting some of the fashions. Other businesses stepping up to the plate early are Peek a Boo Children’s Boutique; K.I. Patton, CPA; Ellise D. Gregoire, Custom Jewelry & Designs; Renee Futter, Independent Consultant and Executive Area Manager for Arbonne; Maureen Aldridge, Chief Executive Officer of the Claremont Chamber of Commerce; Scott Anderson, Industry Event Service; Jeff Brang and Nicholle Hernandez of Exit Realty and Dennis Gutierrez of Financial Credit Union. American Apparel in Claremont is also providing fashions and accessories for the girls.

Last year, many of the girls on campus, inspired by the 2008 Beijing Olympics, responded by staging their own Olympics. Their live-in cottages served as individual Olympic villages.  They ran, they jumped, they swam and they competed. With only two pairs of shoes issued them, as mentioned above, many of the girls opted to run in their bare feet, lest they spoil one of the pairs in the competition. “It was a sight to see,” Macalino said. “These girls have heart, they have spirit, and they have dreams.

“David & Margaret is working to keep those dreams alive.”

dsc00171

Leave a Reply