"Many of us are better than one
For nearly 40 years, Ivelise Markovits has offered help and hope to abandoned, neglected and abused children. Penny Lane, named after the Beatles' song, was created by Markovits in 1969 as a home for 25 troubled teenage girls, a safe haven to help them rebuild their lives. Today, Penny Lane is a nearly $30 million a year organization with six centers that, each day, help rebuild the lives of some 2,900 children and their families.
After graduating from college, Ivelise, a native of Puerto Rico, entered a training program with the Los Angeles County Probation Department. She was charged with finding residential treatment facilities for female wards of the court. Frustrated by the lack of adequate treatment facilities for girls, especially the most challenging ones, Markovits decided to do something about it. So, while still working for the probation department, she began to vault the hurdles and overcome the obstacles that faced a young Latina trying to create a care program from scratch. She prevailed. The result was Penny Lane.
Penny Lane's mission is to foster hopes and dreams by empowering children, youth and families to reach their highest potential. In creating Penny Lane, Markovits realized that what the girls and, later, boys there needed was more than a safe place to sleep. They needed medical care, counseling, mental health services, mentoring, a job. She set about including all those services as well as placement in loving foster homes and transitional housing for emancipated foster youth.
At Penny Lane, more than half its clients are Latino and nearly one-third African-American. Every child must go to school or have a job. All are expected to pass a General Education Development test. Markovits has worked to increase awareness of troubled youth. Through collaborations and community partnerships, Penny Lane has grown from a staff of 15 to over 400, offering a safer environment and opportunity to more and more youth. Markovits balances career and family. She and her husband, Andres, have a son, Martin, an international social activist who shares his mother's passion for fair play and justice.
Ivelise Markovits embodies the qualities of Minerva; courage and strength. She is a warrior who has spent her life fighting to improve the lives of foster children in Los Angeles. Sometimes the fight has been a solitary one for Ivelise, and other times she has forged bonds to win the battle. Regardless of the challenges she has faced, Ivelise Markovits has persevered and the thousands of young people whose lives she has touched and improved are proof her efforts have been successful.