A surprise welcome back
On Sunday, September 15th, we celebrated Founder’s Day. The event was one of the last celebrations that have been planned this year to commemorate the establishment of Hillsides one hundred years ago. It was a family-oriented occasion, drawing many people who over the years have been associated with the agency. There were former staff members, community members, longtime volunteers, and of course, some alumni.
Hearing the recollections of those who actually lived at Hillsides is always interesting. For the older alumni their stay at Hillsides was a result of premature death or chronic illness that impacted their families, requiring them to take refuge in a nurturing place as they dealt with tragedy and loss. For the middle-aged alumni, their stories were of a place that gave them a second chance, having been disruptive in their homes and communities for various reasons. The most recent alumni returned to tell the stories of their reintegration with their families and communities and the challenges that they addressed to become independent and successful.
Meeting many alumni is wonderful, yet the one that stands out for me was a young man who only left our care about two years ago. I was actually surprised to see him, but was really moved by how happy he was to be a part of this important celebration. He had come to the celebration on public transportation from where he lives now in the San Fernando Valley. He greeted his former teachers and staff members with a robust embrace, a smile on his face and a warm greeting. As we talked, I was impressed by how important it was for him to make the considerable effort to be part of the celebration. It was his way of saying thank you and an indication of how proud he was to have been part of the Hillsides community. For a young man like himself, whose life is taken up with many challenges and his success is the result of great sacrifice and effort, this celebration was important. An important part of his identity is the care and support that he received at Hillsides.
Part of the celebration was a brief reenactment of the reception of the first child by the founder of Hillsides, Deaconess Evelyn Wile. The script was taken from her own writings that chronicled her tenure. She was a woman driven by a mission to make a difference in the lives of the children she served. I hope that she would be pleased that a century later her vision still inspires and we are faithful at fulfilling the mission she established.
The greatest tribute we can offer to Deaconess Wile is provided by all those who have been served by Hillsides over the years. Their success, their gratitude, their ability to give back as a result of all they received that is the lasting tribute!
To all those who participated in any way in this and the many centennial celebrations, thank you for all you do to help us fulfill our great mission to create lasting change.