Stephanie Castillo hasn’t lived at Hillsides for more than 20 years.
Yet it still feels like home.
When she visits, which she does regularly, she makes sure to see one person in particular: childcare counselor Lucy Garabedian.
“Lucy was the first person to nurture me,” says Stephanie, 38, who lived at Hillsides between the ages of 10 and 15. “I consider her my mom.”
Stephanie is one of many alumni who come back to see “Momma Lucy,” as Lucy is universally called, as well as to visit other long-time Hillsides employees. Often, these employees were among, if not the, most instrumental people in the former residents’ childhoods.
Lucy, who has worked in the residential cottages for 35 years, gives to the children by showering them with unconditional love. “I love them on the good days, I love them on the bad days,” she says. “I always make them feel special.”
She currently cares for 10 girls, ages 12 – 19, who live in Hillsides Canyon Cottage. She guides them through their daily routines with an eye toward building toward the future.
“I invest in the children, and help give them the tools they need to survive once they leave Hillsides,” she says. She estimates she’s touched the lives of some 500 – 600 children throughout the years.
Her investment in Stephanie certainly paid off. Stephanie says that Lucy provided her with the mothering to become emotionally stable and the drive to become financially secure. She recalls how at Hillsides, Lucy helped her start an on-campus business washing staff’s cars. “This established my first taste of independence,” says Stephanie. By age 17, Stephanie was supporting herself and today she is a successful manager at Rockport Health Care Services in Los Angeles.