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Freedom Magazine, published by the Church of Scientology

Making the Difference

Scientology centers open at unprecedented rate; celebrities, professionals fulfill increasing demand for effective help for youth, families, communities

Church of Scientology Mission of Redondo Beach president Anne Bruce and Redondo Beach Mayor Greg Hill are joined for the mission’s grand opening by (from left) City Councilmen Curt Smaltz and Gerard Bisignano and (at right) performer Kate Ceberano and Claire Edwards of Scientology Missions International.
This family’s story was all too familiar: their grade school daughter, Jenny*, was in trouble at school, her grades descending to the bottom of the class; she had given up any interest in what she was learning. The school urged the parents to seek professional help for their child, yet every door they opened revealed no way out.

Then came a glimmer of hope.

A friend introduced Jenny’s mother to a children’s course on communication and learning skills at the local Church of Scientology, Mission of the West Valley. Here was someone saying something could be done for Jenny that did not mean behavior-altering drugs or special education that would involve a change in schools and upheave her young life. They enrolled her on the course.

At a parent/teacher conference weeks later, Jenny’s teacher pulled her mother aside. The teacher said she’d never seen so much change for the better in a student in such a short amount of time — ever. What was responsible for this miraculous turnaround, she wanted to know. A Scientology course, she was told.

Within a week, that teacher, along with her husband and three children, all had enrolled at the mission on courses to boost their own learning and communication skills.

Improving lives and families is how Churches of Scientology in the Southland are making a difference for thousands of residents. New centers are opening up throughout the area — a direct response to a groundswell of public demand.

These new churches of Scientology are afforded the status of “missions” in the tradition of a religion reaching into new lands. They are smaller than and offer a narrower range of services than the full-fledged Churches of Scientology that many missions later become.

Mission staff and members plan community outreach.

Each new mission that opens joins hundreds that can be found in local communities throughout the world — including 21 throughout Southern California alone.

A Scientology mission provides basic life improvement courses and ministerial counseling — services unique and central to the Scientology religion and its sub-study, Dianetics — and a range of charitable programs. What they have to offer under one roof is expansive: studies and programs to improve learning, to better communication and relationships, to overcome effects of drugs, and much more, including a volunteer network for community assistance.

"Let’s face it. Half an hour’s walk through any urban landscape would convince just about anyone that life could be a happier proposition,” said Claire Edwards of Scientology Missions International (SMI), the Los Angeles-based world headquarters for Church missions. “We’re here to help change that.”

In the course of the development of Scientology, founder L. Ron Hubbard researched and made available means to overcome barriers to learning and mental and spiritual betterment — notably illiteracy, drug abuse and immorality, which all escalated in the 1960s. These discoveries are part of the broad realm of Scientology, but are also used in non-religious settings throughout the world.

One such program is in the Mission of Beverly Hills. Actress Kirstie Alley conceived, established and put her personal touch into every aspect of its free community learning center, Lillie’s Learning Place, which opened in November 2001. Named for Alley’s daughter, Lillie’s has routinely been turning out what can be classified as miracles compared to many outcomes in the public schools.

Lillie’s Learning Place, the tutoring center sponsored by actress Kirstie Alley at the Mission of Beverly Hills, is one of many ways Scientology missions are improving communities throughout LA.
The mission holds lectures and seminars on effective study for local residents who have English as a second language, as well as for UCLA students. They hold lectures on ethics and seminars on formulas for success for local business people.

"Understandably, people are looking these days for more positive values, more security for their children, their families, and their future,” said Vanessa Stoller, president of the mission in Beverly Hills.

That search drew more than 100 people to the grand opening of another new mission in the Southland on June 8, 2002, in Redondo Beach. Mission president Anne Bruce was joined by Redondo Beach Mayor Greg Hill and City Councilmen Curt Schmaltz and Gerard Bisignano at the ceremonial ribbon cutting.

While the mission was still forming over the previous months, its eight full-time staff and dozens of volunteers had already instituted a local tutoring program, participated in local events from beach clean-ups to helping organize a 10K run, and activated an emergency response team of Scientology Volunteer Ministers.

Such a range of activities can be found in most missions throughout the Southland.

Today, Los Angeles is home to the largest concentration of Scientologists in any city in the world; tens of thousands call it home. The number is continually growing, as more residents come into the churches to enroll in services. A majority of them hear about Dianetics and Scientology through word of mouth — friends, family, fellow workers.

Like the families in the West Valley who found a solution for their childrens’ education and who now face a far more certain and bright future.

* name changed to protect privacy

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