Friendly Center is the oldest non-profit in Orange County to remain true to its founding mission of serving the less-fortunate by helping them rebuild. In 2019, Friendly Center will celebrate a huge milestone: 95 years of working to keep families in need safe, stable, and secure.
Friendly Center was founded in 1924 to assist families living in Cypress Barrio, a neighborhood in Orange made up of citrus packing house workers. The founding group members belonged to the Men’s Community Bible Class of Orange, an inter-denominational bible study led by Rev. M. L. Pearson, a Presbyterian minister. The group saw that conditions in Cypress Barrio were meager and they couldn’t ignore the growing needs of the worker’s families. They began building what would become Friendly Center on N. Cypress Street, laying the first brick on April 8, 1924. That building still stands and so does Friendly Center’s commitment to helping local families and community members in need.
In its first 25 years, Friendly Center operated as a Mission Chapel on Sundays by Latin Methodist pastors who helped residents with food assistance, family problems, health concerns, and legal issues. The building was also used on weekdays as a Community Center. Public Health nurses utilized the space to hold health clinics and childcare classes while the Orange School District used the Center for classes in sewing, cooking, and literacy.
In March 1967, Friendly Center officially 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 who each played a role in keeping the work of Friendly Center going and growing. After a partnership with the City of Orange and countless others, Friendly Center established Orange County’s first Rent Supplement Housing Program. At the 50-year mark, Friendly Center became a United Way Agency. Over the next 45 years, Friendly Center would continue to evolve with the community’s needs, eventually moving its headquarters where it stands to this day in Killefer Park. From there, more locations began opening in surrounding cities. Friendly Center was even named one of the top four Family Resource Centers in the state of California.
In 2019, with 4 locations in Orange County, 30+ staff members, dozens of programs, and thousands of families served – Friendly Center continues the mission started 95 years ago of providing safety, stability, and security to our neighbors who need it most.
Stay tuned for next month’s post, which will go into detail regarding Friendly Center’s historical roots in Orange while highlighting Friendly Center’s current work in the community, including how the groundwork for many of our programs has been laid over the past 95 years.