Prominent Monterey Park city and state officials as well as community members attended a June 2 ceremony held for the groundbreaking on new facilities for clients of MERCI -- Mentally & Educationally Retarded Citizens Incorporated. (at left Marta Escanuelas)
MERCI, a non-profit organization that helps severely developmentally-challenged individuals manage with day-to-day functions, will begin construction on two properties located on the 500 block of Chandler Ave, according to the organization's website. The first property will house a group home fit for six adults and a multipurpose building, while an administrative office will be located on the second property next door. Marta Escanuelas, executive director of MERCI, offered opening remarks and a brief review of the existing campus and plans for the future. Once completed, the residential home will be named "John & Mary's Place," in honor of John and Mary Duce who contributed a "substantial donation" to the construction, executive director Escanuelas said. Mary Duce attended the ceremony and was showered with applause when recognized. The properties, which have been MERCI-owned since the 1960's, currently feature five classrooms each and total a little over one acre, she said. Mayor Betty Tom Chu of Monterey Park followed Escanuelas with remarks of her own. Chu, who is also the grandmother to a child with a developmental disability, provided a detailed history of MERCI. The organization's opening dates back to the 1950's, when the developmentally disabled were barred from the public school system, Chu said. "MERCI was born and raised in Monterey Park. This is our baby," she said. Pastor Shel Hess, Board President of MERCI, said while the organization might, at times, encounter financial hardship, MERCI's determination will never waver. "There is no limit to our compassion and commitment," he said. Firefighters from the City of Monterey Park Fire Department were also on-hand to receive recognition for their longstanding support of the organization. Also in attendance were Mayor Pro Tem David Lau and Council Members Mitchell Ing and Teresa Real Sebastian, and City Clerk Dave Barron, all of whom praised MERCI for its positive impact on the mentally and physically disabled. The mid-afternoon groundbreaking closed with city and MERCI officials donning hard hats and participating in a "ceremonial demolition."