Mattie Florence Rhodes was a teenager who worked for the less fortunate with a group of her friends from church called the Little Gleaners. Mattie was only 19 when she died of typhoid fever in 1890, leaving $500.00 to her friends to continue their work with children. The Little Gleaners honored Mattie's wish in 1894 by founding the Mattie Rhodes Memorial Society. This was their pledge:
"I promise to do all I can to help the needy and suffering by working for them, learning about them, giving for them, and trying to interest others in them."
In the early years, the agency provided day care for children of working mothers and basic necessities for poor families. During the Great Depression, Mattie Rhodes Memorial Society provided shelter and basic necessities to those facing hardship by operating a settlement house for children, single mothers, homeless individuals, and the elderly. Based on a community needs assessment in the 1950s, Mattie Rhodes Center began offering mental health and social services programs.
Beginning in the late 1980s, in response to a growing need for mental health and social services for Spanish-speakers, Mattie Rhodes Center began hiring bilingual therapists and case managers. The Mattie Rhodes Art Center was also established in the late 1980s, followed by the Mattie Rhodes Art Gallery in 1999.