OUR MISSION: Friendly Center is a comprehensive family and community resource center dedicated to improving the lives of children, adults, and seniors by helping them move toward self-sufficiency through immediate aid and a variety of educational and life skill programs.
Today, Friendly Center serves over 1,000 families each year in Orange County.
Who we are
Friendly Center has a long history of serving families in need.
Friendly Center was built as a labor of love by the Men's Community Bible Class of Orange, an inter-denominational group led by Rev. M. L. Pearson, a Presbyterian minister. This group of men wanted to assist the families living in the nearby Cypress Barrio, most of whom worked in the citrus packing house. Conditions in the neighborhood were primitive and the needs were many. Friendly Center on North Cypress Street was donated by J. F. Lewis and the Cornerstone Laying Ceremony held on April 8, 1924.
The first 25 years, the Center was operated as a Mission Chapel on Sundays by Latin Methodist pastors. Friendly Center minutes state that the ministers helped residents with food, family problems, health and legal problems; they worked with the nationals and also counseled ex-offenders. The Center was also used extensively weekdays as a Community Center. Public Health nurses used the Center to hold health clinics and classes in child care. The Orange School District used the Center for Citizenship and "Americanization" classes and other classes in sewing, cooking, and learning to speak English.
In the early 1950s, the building was no longer used as a church, and the Latin American Council (two members and the minister of each church in Orange), which oversaw the Center operation, secured the building for use as a nonprofit community center.
In March, 1967, Friendly Center became Friendly Center, Inc. – an independent, community supported, non-profit corporation. This was made possible by the “Friends of the Friendly Center”, a group of one hundred dedicated community members, thus formalizing the organization. The emphasis was on education and housing during the early years after incorporation. After invaluable cooperation from the City of Orange and countless others, Friendly Center established Orange County's first Rent Supplement Housing Program: eight apartment units located on Lemon Street, owned and operated by Friendly Center. Simultaneously, a cooperative rehabilitation effort involving the Friendly Center, the City of Orange, and area property owners was accomplished.
At the 50-year mark, 1974, Friendly Center had evolved greatly and become a United Way Agency. Over the next 40 years, Friendly Center would continue to grow and evolve eventually moving its headquarters to Killefer Park and opening satellite offices in surrounding cities.
In July 2007, Friendly Center was selected by the California Family Resource Association (CFRA) as a model agency. Friendly Center was named one of the top four Family Resource Centers in the state of California with mental health services.
The year 2014 marked Friendly Center's 90th Anniversary, a huge milestone for any non-profit. Friendly Center has come a long way since 1924, providing over 20 programs to families in need. Our goal is to end the cycle of generational poverty in the communities we serve in Orange County. Not all the needs have been met – but Friendly Center is working toward it every day.