Los Alamos Family Council Marks 50 Years of Service

Joy Beery, left, and Cheryl Pongratz. Photo by Carol A. Clark/ladailypost.com

By Carol A. Clark

Today marks a 50-year milestone for Los Alamos Family Council, Inc.

The behavioral health agency at 1505 15th St., Suite C, incorporated Sept. 14, 1962 as a 501 (c) (3) non-profit corporation.

Today the agency is launching a year-long campaign, to thank the community for its support and to focus attention on the importance of personal and community wellness.

“We want community members, organizations and Los Alamos County to know how much we appreciate their support,” Executive Director Joy Beery said. “Each month throughout the next year we will focus on different aspects of wellness through workshops, lectures and other events. And we invite everyone to come to our FAN Club from 5:30-7 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 10 so we can celebrate this special anniversary together.”

Five decades ago, Los Alamos Family Council was founded as a Community Mental Health Center by local resident Margaret Browne to fill a community need.

Its initial funding came from United Way, Los Alamos County and client payment, which is largely the case still today.

“We are so grateful to United Way and the County … without their support, we would not exist,” Counseling Center Director Cheryl Pongratz said. “We also want to thank Los Alamos National Bank, the Juvenile Justice Advisory Board, Los Alamos Medical Center, Kiwanis and the state for their important support.”

Rev. Colin Kelly has served on the Los Alamos Family Council Board of Directors since the mid 1990s, going off during term limitations and returning as soon as policy allows.

“I believe in what Family Council is, which is about serving a segment of the community that has great needs that are not always recognized and addressed,” Kelly said. “It is so important for people to know that when they encounter a difficulty – there is a place that they can go for help and support.”

The mission of Los Alamos Family Council, Inc. is to promote emotional and social well being through advocacy, education, prevention and counseling.

To accomplish that mission, LAFC runs two programs, the Counseling Center and the Youth Activity Centers.

Youth Activity Center Director Paul Martinez mentors young fishermen during a field trip. Courtesy/LAFC

Youth Activity Centers

The Youth Activity Centers are a natural part of LAFC’s mission to enhance the quality of life through prevention of substance use and abuse. The programming focus of the Activity Centers is on youth resiliency, a safe, supervised environment and positive adult role models.

There are two Youth Activity Centers (YAC) – one in Los Alamos on the east side of Ashley Pond and one in White Rock located near Rocket Park. Paul Martinez has been the director of the YACs since 1982.

The program provides regular as well as “drop in”, supervised programs at no cost for youth in grades 3-8. Last year, there were more than 14,000 visits. The Youth Activity Centers are open every day after school, during school vacations and during the summer.

Counseling Center Programs

  • Alcohol and Substance Abuse
  • Court Ordered Assessments and Evaluations
  • DWI School
  • Individual, Group and Family Counseling
  • Domestic Violence
  • Sexual Assault/Trauma/PTSD
  • Juvenile Community Corrections and Juvenile Diversion Program
  • Young Child and Family Therapy
  • Psychosocial Rehabilitation

History and accomplishments of Los Alamos Family Council


  • Incorporated in September, 1962, as a 501 (c) (3) non-profit corporation
  • Los Alamos Family Council, Inc. (LAFC) started in January 1963 as a Community Mental Health Center
  • Margaret Browne, founder, was hired as the first Director-1963
  • First funding came from United Way (one of original United Way member agencies), client payment and Los Alamos County


  • Scope of service broadened to include prevention, at-risk groups, crisis intervention, crisis line and senior services
  • Senior services began with RSVP, then transportation and a meeting center
  • Contract with Los Alamos Public Schools begun for referrals, consultations and support for staff, students, and related family members
  • Moved to East Road-1972
  • Moved to 1080 15th Street (site of present YMCA)-1975
  • Adult Day Care (The Day Out) started in 1977


  • Growth continued with programs such as Big Brothers/Big Sisters, Friend Tutors, Homemaker Aides, Telephone Reassurance, Mediation
  • Moved to 1505 15th Street-1982
  • LAFC Senior programs accepted responsibility for Meals on Wheels from the Los Alamos Medical Center
  • Day treatment for chronically mentally ill began
  • Planning for the Senior Center Building


  • Margaret Browne, founder, retired.
  • Addition to the building-1993
  • Casa Mesita Thrift Shop moved to LAFC building-1993
  • Respite Program started to support Day Out-1997
  • Council on Alcoholism and Youth Activity Centers merged with LAFC-1997
  • Betty Ehart Center opened-1998
  • Daily meal program began
  • Community Development Block Grant funding for new Day Out addition to Betty Ehart Senior Center secured-1999


  • Senior program contracts awarded to LARSO by Los Alamos County (ended LAFC responsibility)-2000
  • Project Recovery-May 2000 to November 2001-support for Cerro Grande fire survivors
  • Three distinct programs-Counseling Center, Youth Activity Centers and Maternal and Child Health
  • Maternal and Child Health becomes established as the county wide Community Health Council
  • LAFC receives grant from CYFD to provide case management for youth on probation/parole
  • Los Alamos Juvenile Justice Advisory Board established in 2004. Add significantly to LAFC youth programs

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