MAKING A DIFFERENCE
The mission of St. Anne’s is to work together to build safe, fostering, resilient families from pregnancy to parenthood and from childhood to adulthood — for generations to come.
So when one of their participants delivers a healthy baby or graduates high school, attends college, gets a job, does well financially and eventually secures a home, the organization feels a great deal of satisfaction and an enormous sense of pride.
“We are actually shaping the future,” said Lorna Little, St. Anne’s president and CEO. “We are building families and individuals up to be successful for the overall community.”
Little, who took the reigns of St. Anne’s two years ago, said part of the reason the organization is important is because the people they help today may be the ones to help others in the future.
“These are the folks that are going to be taking care of us,” said Little, the first black woman to lead the organization. “These may be our political leaders, doctors, teachers or people working in nursing homes. We need to have a better understanding that when we care for those in need, it’s better for the whole community.”
St. Anne’s, founded in 1908, and sponsored by the Franciscan Sisters of the Sacred Heart, first began as a 12-bed hospital for pregnant, unwed, young mothers. Today it is still committed to developing and sustaining programs that address the special needs of pregnant, parenting and at-risk young women, their children and their families.
The organization’s mission is all-encompassing and has various moving parts.
St. Anne’s impact includes Early Childhood Education Centers throughout the Rampart/Westlake & Koreatown districts as well as Wraparound Approach Services in the South Los Angeles Crenshaw District, which provides crisis intervention and mental health therapy to those who are considered at-risk.
There is a short-term residential treatment program, family-based services with dedicated family advocates, mental health services, and transitional housing.
While no one pays for services, fees may apply to transitional and permanent housing based on someone’s income.
Little, 53, said if an attendee is looking for work, “They wouldn’t pay. We base it on income.”
Last year, St. Anne’s opened Beverly Terrace, a permanent supportive housing complex with the state-of-the-art S. Mark Taper Foundation Early Learning Center on-site, helping homeless and persistently homeless families build new, secure lives.
Beverly Terrace houses 39 one and two-bedroom apartments for families with a history of — or at-risk for — homelessness.
“People have the right to live in a decent place,” Little said. “If you’re in a space that feels good and breeds dignity, people will do well. Case management is right inside the program.”
Little said although it’s a huge undertaking, one of St. Anne’s goals is to help families stay on track.
“What we do is huge and complex,” she said. “It’s really wonderful how the staff keeps everything moving. We have an amazing team of employees. I’m conducting the band and orchestrating to make sure all of those moving parts are moving well together.”
Little said St. Anne’s, which helps about 2,200 people per year, actually follows through from pregnancy to a newborn, to supporting that same newborn through early education, through their teens, into transitional housing and into the workforce to take care of themselves and the care of their families, as well as their mental health.
Throughout that process, Little said it’s important that participants and clients see support from everyone in the community, especially those who look like them.
“That’s so important,” she said. “We are thankful for all of the support, but it’s important to understand that people need to see people who look like them giving them support. We are intentional that they see support from people who reflect their backgrounds. We also want people to give back. Gratitude goes both ways.”
The majority of the families and individuals that come through St. Anne’s program is based on a referral from social services. Everyone must meet various guidelines.
Little said the demographics represent a rainbow. The people who come to St. Anne’s are predominantly Latina and African American. There are also Caucasians and Asians.
“We’re working with people with high needs,” Little said. “The goal is for all of them to become successful. Success is different for every person, whether it’s breaking cycles of abuse, graduating from college or taking care of their family.”
There are numerous organizations helping children and families. Little said what St. Anne’s does on a daily basis sets it apart.
“We look at and talk about the whole spectrum,” Little said. “We have that spread from pregnancy all the way up to adulthood. We want to help them at each step. We help until we get them into safe, affordable housing. It’s a big challenge that we meet on a regular basis.”
Little, who grew up in Connecticut, is used to meeting challenges. Before helming St. Anne’s, for 13 years she served as the executive director of St. Agnes Family Center in West Hartford, Conn.
A Jill-of-all-trades, Little is an author (“Mums the Word!”), licensed clinical social worker, community activist, cultural diversity trainer, media producer and television personality, who, over the years, has learned how to balance her interests. She said there is a golden thread that runs through everything she does, and that thread is helping people.
“My focus right now is to be the CEO of St. Anne’s,” she said. “I work hard and am passionate about things I believe in. Don’t limit yourself in your interests and things you want to try and explore. I’ve always cared about people and wanted them to excel and live their best life. I want to be part of that upliftment.”
Little, who found out accidentally when she was in her 30s that she was adopted, said what drives her is working from a place of purpose, which is why she is not just “surviving, but thriving.”
“I want to remove barriers and have strengths,” said Little, a married mother of three, one of whom was adopted from the foster system. “We want to break negative cycles. That’s what I want to do. It may not start that way, but it can end that way.”
“Making A Difference” is a weekly feature profiling organizations that are serving their communities. To propose a “Making A Difference” profile, send an email to email@example.com.
By Darlene Donloe