As he was giving his wife an award for her work with her namesake facility on Skid Row for homeless women, Kirk Douglas doubled his $5-million pledge to the Los Angeles Mission to a total of $10-million on Wednesday.
Douglas told his wife: “Thank you for teaching me that caring is sharing.”
Anne Douglas told the 200 Mission supporters at the event that Kirk can never keep a secret, but surprised her with the additional gift. She thanked him for his “tremendous generosity, which will allow my vision of helping the homeless men and women of Los Angeles.”
Los Angeles Mission President Herb Smith was surprised as well. “This wonderful legacy will make it possible to help individuals create their own legacy. It will open great opportunities to begin to solve one of the more intractable problems facing society. We are beyond grateful for the support the Douglas family has shown the Los Angeles Mission.”
Wednesday’s gala celebrated the 20th anniversary of the Anne Douglas Center for Women at the Los Angeles Mission honoring Anne Douglas with a special award for her work to create and develop the facility.
“The story is that Mr. and Mrs. Douglas were visiting the old Los Angeles Mission in the late 1980’s and she asked about homeless women,” said Herb Smith, President of the Los Angeles Mission. “There were some sheets hanging from a wire, and they pulled them back to show a couple of bunk beds. Mrs. Douglas looked at her husband and said ’that’s unacceptable, we have to do something about that.’”
“It gave me a terrible heartache,” Anne Douglas said. “I decided to improve that when the new Mission was built. I was hopeful that I could maybe help the women and build a facility for them next to the Los Angeles Mission.” The construction was completed and opened on February 14 1992.
In July of this year, Kirk and Anne Douglas made the initial $5-million pledge for the continuing support of the work of the Los Angeles Mission and the Anne Douglas Center.
More than 250 women have graduated from the Anne Douglas Center’s intensive year-long program since. More than twice that many women start but choose or do not need to complete the program. With day services; including showers personal counseling, referrals food and clothing distribution, it is estimated that more than 120,000 women and children have been helped.
The second annual “Anne Douglas Center for Women Award” for outstanding and continuous work on behalf of the women’s center at the Los Angeles Mission was given to Dr. Betty McMicken. Named for Mrs. Douglas, the stunning award was designed, created, and donated by Tiffany & Co.
Dr. McMicken is an associate professor in the Communicative Disorders Department at California State University, Long Beach (CSULB). McMicken was chosen, in part, because of her tireless efforts at the ADC since she first became involved five years ago.
“Dr. Betty is a wonderful person. She’s unique,” said Kirk Douglas. He presented the award to Dr. McMicken, who had assisted him in regaining his speech following his stroke in 1996. “She really cares for others like no one I have ever known.”
Anne Douglas added, “She not only helps the women unselfishly, but she makes the Anne Douglas Center a priority in her life. I admire her a great deal. We have a great gift in Betty.”
McMicken noted that the awards ceremony took place just three blocks from Berkeley Hall School, where she received her education from nursery school through ninth grade and credits it for giving her a strong spiritual and humanitarian foundation.
“That’s where I received my foundation in altruism, in reaching out to those less fortunate than me” she said. “Now I am receiving this award and it’s so characteristic of everything that I learned in my foundation, everything that was taught to me day after day at Berkeley Hall. That education guided me into a profession where I am able to help other people and it made me aware of the plight of people less advantaged. Reaching out as a volunteer from that basis has been the most natural thing in the world for me. I’m definitely in the right profession.”
She has also contributed monetarily, dedicating a portion of her income specifically to the ADC. Among other things, her donations have been used to remodel and refurbish the center’s shower area, redo the public address system, purchase new dining room and patio furniture and with the help of her friends at Center Theater Group has sent groups of 20 women from the Anne Douglas Center to the Ahmanson Theatre four times to see plays. They recently went to performance of “Mary Poppins”.
Los Angeles Mission was established in 1936 as a soup kitchen and Christian outreach to homeless men on Skid Row. During the depression years, the needs of homeless and unemployed men were great on the streets of cities across America. Soup kitchens and bread lines were formed by religious and civic groups to provide food to the needy. One of those soup kitchens was the beginnings of the Los Angeles Mission.
By 1986, the needs of the homeless overwhelmed the capacity of Mission’s original Los Angeles Street building, and the organization set out to expand. Vacant property at the corner of 5th and Wall Street was purchased and the present facility was built and dedicated in 1992.
With that new facility, the Mission was the first in Lost Angeles to establish a dedicated women’s center – The Anne Douglas Center for Women – a long-term residential rehabilitation facility. The doors to a new facility for women opened in February 1992.
The ballroom of the Four Seasons Hotel Los Angeles at Beverly Hills was transformed to accommodate the dozens of tables donors purchased for the fundraiser. Guests showed up to support the Douglas’ and to show their financial support for the Skid Row community served by the Mission.
“I am proud of my wife for many things, her work with the Anne Douglas Center for Women is just one of them,” said Kirk Douglas. “When we got married, 57 years ago, Anne was determined to do something for her new country. She has never stopped.”
The event included a culinary collaboration between Chef Ashley James, executive chef of the Four Seasons and Susan Feniger Chef/Owner of Border Grill Restaurants and Susan Feniger’s Street.
And there was music. The evening’s performances highlighted the musical talents of recent American Idol contestants Diana DeGarmo, Ace Young and Casey Abrams.
Sponsors for the event included the John W. Carson Foundation, Wells Fargo Bank and City National Bank.
For more than 75 years, the Los Angeles Mission has served homeless and hurting men and women of downtown Los Angeles, providing emergency services such as shelter, food and clothing. In addition, the Los Angeles Mission also offers long-term residential rehabilitation programs, including education, job training, transitional housing and counseling.