50 Years of Community Service

Photo by Diandra Jay/Board of Supervisors.

Board of Supervisors Chairman Mark Ridley-Thomas marked the 50th anniversary of a community service program created to help residents of Watts and surrounding neighborhoods in the aftermath of the civil unrest there in 1965.

“The Watts Counseling and Learning Center is one of a kind,” he said while presenting its leaders with a commemorative scroll at the Los Angeles County Hall of Administration. “May you thrive and continue another 50 years of outstanding service.”

Sponsored and run by Kaiser Permanente Southern California, the Center has been providing mental health counseling, outreach, and educational services since 1967. One does not need to be a Kaiser Permanente member to receive services.

The program’s goal is to empower individuals and families to overcome barriers, and to strengthen local communities. Through community partnerships and grants, it also aims to improve the health of local residents, reduce health inequalities, create safe communities, improve access to health care, expand healthy food choices, and promote physical activity.

“It has really been a labor of love for the staff,” said Kaiser Permanente Southern California’s community benefit managing director, Angela Coron. “When you walk into the Center, you know that you’re in a special place with people really dedicated to helping people grow, to supporting our families and children and the community.”

Also present during the ceremony were the Center’s director, Maria Aguirre; and founding director Bill Coggins.

Every year, about 4,500 individuals participate in one or more of the 25 programs at the Center. To date, 1,125 children have completed their preschool program; 1,600 high school students have received college entrance test preparation training; and 400 professionals have been participated in the Masters of Social Work training program.

In addition, $284,000 has been awarded to 207 Watts area students through the Bill Coggins Community Leadership Award for college. Of the program’s 32 employees, many are local community members.