Before the Rev. Fred Jordan died two decades ago, he told his wife that a mother's touch was needed to run the mission he first opened for men in 1944.
"He said that it was a good thing I would be leading," said Willie Jordan, who has headed Fred Jordan Missions since her husband died in 1988. "Most of those who we [now] serve are mothers and children."
On Sunday, the mission held its annual Mother's Day banquet in downtown Los Angeles for impoverished women and their families.
About 2,000 people attended to participate in a short religious service, eat a plate of baked chicken and greens, and celebrate.
Each mother was given a pink or red carnation, and balloons filled the air at the event, which the mission has put on for more than 60 years.
"I want these mothers and these kids to have some of the joys that I had with my kids," Jordan said after the first of three scheduled programs.
Spokeswoman Suzanna Choi said the mission, which on average serves about 1,000 people a day, now sees about three women and children for every man, a radical shift from its earlier days.
Betty Thompson, 59, said she went to the banquet because her two children were out of town and she wanted to be around other families. She said her husband died a year ago, and after bouncing from home to home, the mission helped her find an apartment she could afford.
Thompson said she spent Sunday morning "just appreciating my mother and my daughters" and listening to the gospel music from performers.
Julianna Asturias, 55, said she has been going to the banquet for at least five years with her mother, Irma Sterumpa, who is 97. "Each year we do this because we think she might not be with us" next year, Asturias said. "Learn to love your mothers . . . because they won't last."