Assistance League of Newport-Mesa was founded as a chartered chapter of National Assistance League in 1940. Originally called, Assistance League of Newport Beach, our Thrift Shop and offices were located on the Balboa Peninsula. Chapter is the governing body of the organization and is supported by four auxiliaries. Our major philanthropic programs are the Cheri Harris Children’s Dental Health Center, The Kids on the Block, Operation School Bell®, and Scholarship Program. Proceeds from our Thrift Shop, Treasures on Consignment Shop, fundraising events, grants and endowments provide the major financial support for the philanthropic programs. Assistance League of Newport-Mesa has served the community for more than seventy-five years and is unique in that we serve the community according to its needs. Our varied programs reflect that purpose.
Throughout our history, we have grown with the needs of the community. In the 1940s, Chapter helped organize the Red Cross Thrift Shop and book loan program for servicemen. We began to provide school children an opportunity to receive dental care and we presented our first scholarship to a graduating high school senior.
In the early 1950s, members raised funds needed to build the Costa Mesa Boy’s Club as well as assisting with the funding of Hoag Hospital. As there was a need for nurses, we provided a scholarship and revolving loan fund for nursing students at Orange Coast College. The Children’s Dental Health Center was established in 1952 and later an orthodontics program was added. As needs presented themselves, Chapter developed a social service program, contributed to “Go Forth” for the learning disabled, and the Youth Program Center Hotline.
While we have contributed to and raised funds for special programs, our policy is to develop and manage our own philanthropic programs. The need for a day care facility providing low-cost childcare for working parents was a program that could not be denied. Chapter opened the doors to the Grace Hoag Cottage in 1972. In 1984 and 1986 respectively, Operation School Bell and Kids on the Block were added to our philanthropic programs. In 1997, the Grace Hoag Cottage was closed after twenty-five years of operation. In its place, the Scholarship Program, now called Community Outreach Program, was created.
The 1990s found Assistance League of Newport Beach bursting at the seams. The Children’s Dental Health Center had a long waiting list. Space in the Thrift Shop was limited, our building was overcrowded, and financial needs kept expanding. The property in Newport Beach was sold to its neighbor, St. James Episcopal Church, and a property on Fairview Road in Costa Mesa was purchased. Our name became Assistance League of Newport-Mesa to reflect the relocation as well as the school district whose children we serve. The Thrift Shop, Treasures on Consignment, The Children’s Dental Health Center, Operation School Bell and Kids on the Block are all housed in our current building. A multi-purpose room on the second floor is used for meetings. In May 1997, we celebrated a major milestone by paying off the mortgage on the Fairview Road property and holding a “burn-the-mortgage” party. In 2004, The Children’s Dental Health Center was renamed The Cheri Harris Dental Center to honor Past President, Cheri Harris, for her years of dedication and service to the center.