Alicia Gonzalez Neve (1869-1952) donated a few acres of land on East Lake to the Salesians of Don Bosco to open an orphanage for boys in 1928. Mrs. Neve gave her property, home and savings to develop the orphanage, named Mary Help of Christians School, and Villa Madonna School on West Columbus Drive in Tampa. Both schools flourished with her support and the children loved to be in her presence. Upon her death in 1952, Mrs. Neve was buried next to her family in a small cemetery on the property at Mary Help of Christians School.Serving grades 1-12, Mary Help of Christians was academically one of the finest schools in central Florida. For many, it was the only true experience of family they ever knew. As federal and state regulations changed regarding the education of orphans, the school evolved from a boarding school to an all day school by 1998, and then into a Catholic middle school for boys and girls. In light of declining enrollment the Salesians closed the middle school on May 31, 2006. An active alumni association continues to visit the campus and support the programs offered today. The classroom buildings on campus are now home to students in the Florida Autism Center of Excellence.
After the closure of the school there followed a one-year pastoral planning process. This brought about a change in scope for the Salesians who recognized an urgent need to serve the youth in the neighborhood, most of which live in disadvantaged circumstances. The Salesians partnered withBoys & Girls Clubs of Tampa Bay for an after school program. They also made the campus available to Catholic youth on the regional level for spiritual retreats. The campus was renamed Mary Help of Christians Center in 2006.
To learn more about Mary Help of Christians Center, please visit their website: http://www.mhctampa.org/