For the past three decades Maraynne Hayashi has helmed Echo Park's . The agency gives Echo Park’s youth a place to go, provides them with activities and exposure and passes on vital life skills.
What better way to celebrate that tenture than with cake, pizza and the company of friends?
Thus, the small party held in her honor at the agency’s headquarters on Wednesday. Located at the intersection of Edgeware Street and Bellevue Avenue, the CCAC is housed in an old Mediterranean-style firehouse. Although they’re closed up, two fireman’s poles sit in the main room, reminding you of the building’s former use.
A large cake from on Echo Park Avenue touted Maryanne’s dates with the CCAC: 4/16/1981 to 4/16/2011.
“We were really young then,” commented Hayashi. Then she corrected herself. “No, I wasn’t. I was old then, too.”
But time hasn’t slowed down this 76-year-old great-grandmother. Even at her own party, she was busy making sure the kids of the CCAC had pizza and cake. “Have one of each,” she urged, dispensing slices of pepperoni and sausage.
“She’ll do about anything to keep the kids involved,” said CCAC board president Jacques Chambers. “She handles everything well.”
As well-wishers crowded around, Hayashi was awarded a certificate from the Los Angeles County board of supervisors to celebrate her decades of service. This award will join the stack of others that she has yet to hang on the wall of her office. The walls are already crowded with awards and photos of friends and family.
Hayashi started working as a young woman with the Catholic Youth Organization. Then she worked at a "teen post" as part of Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty. She explained that every housing project had a Teen Post that was a safe place with supervision open until 9 p.m.
This is the model that fuels the CCAC. About 35 kids come to the center these days. “No bad language” is the first on the list of rules. It’s a place where they can do homework, hang out and spend time in a safe environment.
Alejandra Marroquin is the Field Deputy for Council District 13. But she was once one of the CCAC’s participants. “After college, I came back for my community,” she said. Marroquin remembers holding rummage sales, the subsequent field trips and getting her first job as a teen.
17-year-old Sara Leon says of Hayashi “I think she’s changed lives. I’ve learned so much from her and the staff.” Having lost funding, the past year has “been the hardest” of the 30, Hayashi says. But as long as the city council ensures she has a building, she’ll have it “open for the kids.”