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Monterey Park, CA—Rene Araiza, President of the MERCI Board of Directors, announces the appointment of Jillian Van Leuven as the Executive Director of MERCI who succeeds Marta R. Escañuelas, who will be retiring after 22 years with MERCI. Araiza says that, “Jillian brings a variety of experience working with non-profit organizations. She also brings her knowledge in service programs, fund development, human resources, fiscal planning and a strong sense of leadership. Her skills in developing programs for individuals with developmental disabilities will greatly enhance our current programs which encourage independence of our MERCI consumers. With her leadership abilities and forward thinking she will continue to strengthen the MERCI organization for years to come. On behalf of the MERCI Board, Staff, Consumers and their families we welcome her and wish her many years of continued success with MERCI.” Van Leuven first day on the job was January 22nd.

Van Leuven has more than 17 years experience with FACT (Family, Adult and Child Therapies), an organization that serves people with developmental disabilities and other mental health challenges where she served as an integral member of the senior leadership team as both the Director of Operations and the Director of Adult and Transition Services. In these positions, Van Leuven gained expertise in community-based program management, program development, securing and maintaining collaborative partnerships and fiscal and operational management. Van Leuven says, “My passion lies in serving mission-driven organizations that are dedicated to making lasting changes for people with developmental disabilities. MERCI’s long and respected history of empowering and dignifying people with developmental disabilities aligns with my core belief that every person has the right to develop lasting social and emotional connections furthering their ability to become fully integrated members of the communities in which they live and work. It will take a lot of hard work to maintain the greatness MERCI has already achieved while innovatively expanding upon their programs and services, but I am thrilled at the opportunity to be a part of their vision and mission.”

Van Leuven holds a Bachelors Degree in Psychology from San Francisco State University and a Master’s Degree in Public Administration with a concentration in Non-Profit Administration and Management from California State University Northridge.

A group of parents of children with developmental disabilities from the San Gabriel
Valley and East Los Angeles formed MERCI in 1955 as a school because at that time there were no educational options for their children. In 1962 MERCI moved into the 525 N. Chandler Avenue site which had been built in 1919. Over the years MERCI has moved into supporting adults with day programs and adults in residential homes.

Over the past ten years MERCI via grants, donations and loans has built a new group home (John and Mary Duce’s Centre), a classroom building (Marta R. Escañuelas Building) and an administration building. MERCI presently serves 125 adults with developmental disabilities from all over the San Gabriel Valley in five programs and in two residential homes.

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