On a cold November day in 1979, a nineteen year old girl stumbled in on crutches to the not-as-yet- officially opened doors of The Family Place, then located in a basement on Columbia Road NW. Newly arrived from El Salvador, speaking no English, and lost, Elsa had slipped and fallen on an icy stairway and broken her leg. In the course of setting the broken bone at the Washington Hospital Center, it was discovered that she was pregnant. A nurse remembered hearing about the new family center, and sent her over. The Family Place was on its way!
Each person of the hundreds who attend The Family Place each year is unique, but Elsa’s story is also representative. She had escaped from one of the civil wars that engulfed Central America in the last part of the 20th Century. Young, Latina, highly stressed and with multiple problems, pregnant or carrying a young child, they arrive. Like Elsa they also have strengths: for the most part they are healthy, strong, and willing to work hard. They have weathered many obstacles to attain their dream of living in the United State and providing a better life for their children.
Angelica was another early arrival at The Family Place, in 1982. Her little son, Eric, raced around The Family Place seeking hugs from all his “aunties.” He grew up strong and confident, joined the Navy, earned a college education, and now is married and starting a family of his own. His brother and sisters are also on track to educational and vocational success. Angelica gives credit to The Family Place! Angelica herself still cleans houses, but she owns her home and car. She is tremendously proud that her children are taking their place as grateful, contributive U.S. citizens.
The Family Place welcomes every family with children ages 0-5. For six years we maintained an outreach in the Shaw neighborhood in addition to our main location in Columbia Heights, but at present The Family Place’s services are centered in the row house at 16th Street NW near Park Road which we purchased in 1986.
Elsa was the first. She has been followed by thousands! The Family Place now serves approximately 700 families each year.