Having volunteered for Maravilla Foundation in the 70's and early 80's, I have witnessed firsthand its extraordinary growth, from a single-issue agency operating a gang prevention program out of a one room office, to an organization which has taken on the challenges of our communities with such effectiveness that they have earned the reputation of being one of the most successful community-based organizations in the state of California.
Senator Richard Polanco (ret.)
Former Senate Majority Leader
|History and Accomplishments|
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1967 was a year of tumult and transition in America’s cities. The War on Poverty was all but over, having lost political momentum to a costly war in Southeast Asia. In July, riots in Detroit were a painful reminder of Watts just two years earlier. The neglect and lack of opportunity in minority communities was getting worse, and from that environment a community based organization was founded to address the needs of the people of East Los Angeles.
Maravilla Foundation was incorporated on August 13, 1967 as a 501 (c)3 non-profit organization designed to improve the quality of life of low income East L.A., and to specifically work with gang and at-risk youth. It was founded by a group of concerned community leaders who recognized the need to make life easier for a community which had gone virtually unserviced for years. For the first six years, Maravilla was funded solely from private dollars, such as contributions from local churches, private charitable organizations, and with cultural performances to raise money. This was done by design, for in order to run gang intervention programs that could work in East L.A., it was crucial to have complete control over program methodology, and run the kind of program the community needed, without interference from outside influences.
Answering Housing Concerns of the Community
In 1973, the Housing and Urban Development (HUD) redevelopment project reached the Maravilla housing complex, with the goal to demolish the tenements built in the 1940s, and build new multi-family units in their place. Maravilla, along with other activist groups, recognized the opportunity to organize the community as a single voice to present their wishes about what kind of community they wanted to live in. To meet those wishes, Maravilla was instrumental in convincing HUD that both a Senior Citizen Center and Community Center were vital to further social services within this complex. Shortly after completion of these facilities, Maravilla was issued a grant from L.A. County to run a nutrition program to eligible seniors living in the Maravilla housing complex the next year. This marked a change in philosophy in which government grants would be actively sought. The senior citizen nutrition program, Maravilla′s first grant program, is still in operation today.
By the end of the 1970s, Maravilla had increasingly become known to tackle groundbreaking new projects and make successes out of them, with lower recidivism rates than like minded agencies of that time. In less than a decade, Maravilla was on the ground floor of employment programs, youth intervention, and elderly projects… and had successfully created a strong community support base to service families as well as youth. But the greatest challenge to the Foundation’s survival was about to come.