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Verdugo Views: The story of a much-loved old house

The old house at 540 West Broadway has sheltered many people during its long life — first as a private home, then as a boarding house and now as Wellness Works, which provides a safe haven for veterans through a program called ‘Welcome Home Veterans.'

It all stems from the vision of Nancy Rez, who back in 1984 began looking for a place for her new project, Wellness Works.

Rez had earned a degree in biology from Occidental College, married and had two children. When her children were older, she returned to work as an office manager at Hoover High. There, her vice principal, recognizing her ability to work with staff and students, and knowing that she had a degree in biology, encouraged her to get a nursing degree and become a school nurse.

So she did. She enrolled at Pasadena City College and there she met Dorothy Caruso, founder of the Glendale Visiting Nurses Hospice in the Home program, who became an important role model in Rez's life.

Rez earned her nursing degree, then became campus nurse at Glendale Community College. Later, while working at Glendale Adventist Hospital, she took an extensive training course at UCLA on holistic and alternative therapies, learning the principles of Chinese medicine combined with acupressure.

“The course transformed her life and her understanding of her nursing career,” said Mary Lu Coughlin, executive director of Wellness Works. “After completing the course work, she knew that she wanted to help people understand how lifestyle and stress often contribute to what are considered degenerative illnesses.”

Now, fast-forward to the spring of 1984, when Rez and Coughlin met at a hospice training course here in Glendale and began talking about opening a healing and wellness resource center and bookstore.

“We wanted it to be in a non-clinical setting. Some place that helped people feel comfortable and welcome, whether they were seeking help with pain and illness or wanting to explore new ideas and attend workshops related to health and wellness,” said Coughlin, who has a background in education.

At first, they rented a small space on Chevy Chase Drive. Rez had a private practice and taught acupressure classes while Coughlin encouraged folks to join their new group, “Humans Anonymous.”

“We quickly outgrew that space and in 1986, we found this current location. The old house was exactly what we envisioned,” Coughlin said.

The landlord, Ron Bateman, told them it had been moved from the corner of California and Central avenues more than 70 years ago to make room for the new Sears and Roebuck store.

“Several families have stopped over the years to share how they loved living in this house. And one man recalled his mother renting rooms upstairs as a boarding house,” Coughlin said.

“The setting creates the perfect environment for our services. Veterans young and old tell us no matter how large we might grow, we are not to change anything. They love opening the front door and feeling like maybe Grandma lives here,” Coughlin said.

“I love this center and its history. Sadly, Nancy died suddenly, in December, 2009. But her understanding of health and wellness and comfort and compassion lives on with all of us.”

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To the Readers:

When the Sears and Roebuck opened in Glendale, a full-page advertisement in the Glendale News-Press on January 29, 1938, read, “The story of Glendale is the story of one of the most remarkable municipal growths of modern times. Fifteen years ago, Glendale was a small town on the outskirts of a big city. Today, it is a big city in its own right. It is as big as such American cities as Topeka, Kansas or Charleston, South Carolina.”

The ad described Glendale as the established trading center for the vast San Fernando Valley, boasting of hundreds of fine stores and shops. “It is but natural, therefore, that Glendale should also possess a great department store.”

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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