A Shared Story: Marillac Social Center and East Garfield Park

“When we see how small we are, how feeble our efforts, and how big are our hopes, our desires, our plans, our dreams, then we realize that we must continue to pray as if it all depended on God, and work as if it all depended on us!”[1]

The news of the founding of Marillac Social Center, a non-profit agency servicing the East Garfield Park neighborhood in Chicago, IL was buried on page thirty-three of the October 20, 1947 edition of the Chicago Tribune.[2] Despite its seemingly humble and inauspicious beginnings, within a year of opening its doors, Marillac serviced nearly 2,000 children between the stages of tot to teen in programs such as Tiny Tot Town, Kiddieville, and Teen Town. By the second year, they would round-out their programs by adding the Town Hall for adults and the Chess and Chatter Club for those over sixty-five. Clearly, from its inception, Marillac Social Center has made painstaking efforts to truly serve “all who wish to use it.”[3] Its ability to do so, however, has not always come easily.

Nestled in the heart of one of the most historically (and currently) under-served and underprivileged communities in the nation, Marillac Social Center has faced its fair share of battles both within its walls and outside of them. Internally, Marillac, like all institutions of its kind, struggled with the reality of maintaining (or even) expanding programs, but with diminishing funds and assistance. Meanwhile, members of its community encountered nearly overwhelming tribulations: juvenile delinquency, unemployment, chronic poverty, crime, social isolation, racial antagonism, and public health issues. Yet even in the face of these constant challenges, Marillac Social Center[4] has managed to respond to its environment, and more importantly, to its neighbors. It has been successful in meeting the challenges of its community, because it has had its support. This is the shared story of this social center and those who have helped to make it great.

Works Cited:
[1] “Rendu House Extension Annual Report, 1960,” p. 3; box 3, folder 13 Marillac Social Center Archives, Chicago, IL (hereafter MSCA).
[2] “New Social Center to be Dedicated by Stritch Tomorrow,” Chicago Tribune 20 October 1947.
[3] “Marillac Social Center Brochure, 1949,” n.p., box 1, folder 3; MSCA
[4] The names Marillac Social Center and Marillac (its abbreviated form) are used interchangeably throughout this history.  In addition, Marillac Social Center is also informally known as Marillac House (thus the use of that name in some of the footnotes).

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