A combination of events sparked the forming of Las Candelas. Several women from the Glendale area banded together to support a friend with a daughter at Camarillo State Mental Hospital. They would accompany their friend when she visited the Hospital. Their visits, along with a Los Angeles Times article detailing the plight of 90 children residing in the institution, motivated them to act.
The ladies heard stories about these "forgotten children" and their dreary and isolated lives. They were appalled to learn about young patients with no one to visit them, so the friends hosted the first of what would be many holiday parties for the children of Camarillo.
The women realized the need for ongoing support for these vulnerable children and a greater understanding of their mental health needs. Founders Pat Wall and Dorothy Uhlig organized the group in 1953 and formed a 501c(3) charitable organization in 1955.
Members sprang into action at this point and organized monthly visits to Camarillo. They provided parties, outings to theme parks, kite-flying, pinewood derby days, beach picnics and car shows. The joy and caring that Las Candelas brought to the children can never fully be measured. Their heartfelt work continued until Camarillo closed in 1997.
Las Candelas also advocated for mental health services in the Glendale area, the members partnered with the Glendale Welfare Council to conduct a survey of mental health programs for local children. Finding none, they met with doctors, community leaders and school personnel to help provide mental health services for the community. They helped found Glendale Guidance Clinic with Dr. Glen Roberts in 1957. Later known as Verdugo Mental Health and subsequently VMHCare, the facility targeted populations whose ability to access care and advocate for themselves was very limited.
The center was seeing over 2,000 patients, but VMHCare ran into financial trouble in 2011 because of construction overruns and a severe reduction of donations due to the recession. They reached out to Didi Hirsch Mental Health Services to take over the operation. Las Candelas has continued their financial support and volunteer involvement with the facility.
For many years, members also hosted annual parties, outings, visited and read to the children at Los Angeles County Hospital's Children's Psychiatric Unit.
Members now volunteer at Hillsides Education Center in Pasadena, Hathaway-Sycamores Family Service in Altadena and Didi Hirsch Mental Health Services in Glendale. We also financially support Didi Hirsch Mental Health Services, Ascencia, YWCA-Domestic Violence Shelter and Hillside's Youth Moving On. More about our activities >>
Beginning in 1957, a biennial fashion show was initiated to support the philanthropic activities of Las Candelas. The first fashion show was held at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles and for many years to follow at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills. Today the fashion show/benefit brings in more than 600 guests. More about our fashion show benefit >>