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A 'GRAND' regard for the Senior Center

Posted: August 9, 2009 3:07 p.m.
Updated: August 10, 2009 4:55 a.m.

GRANDS founders Jan Fear, left, Gerri McCorkle and Corinn Miklosovic, right, discuss their many charitable refurbishing plans for the SCV Senior Center with its Executive Director Brad Berens.

 
It is said that the moral consciousness of a society is demonstrated in how it treats its seniors.

For certain members of this community, such selfless and proactive concern for elders is easily seen in what they do for the Santa Clarita Valley Senior Center.

For many months, friends Gerri McCorkle, Jan Fear, and Corinn Miklosovic have been on a passionate mission to spruce up the aging Newhall facility while adding comfort and visual excitement to what is a daily home-away-from-home for many seniors.

Founders of the "GRANDS" - an acronym for "Giving Respect and Nurturing to Deserving Seniors" - McCorkle, Fear and Miklosovic are often found with other volunteers working on various SCVSC beautification projects.

Those endeavors have thus far included: refurbishing and re-planting the Center's outdoor patio, painting various activity rooms, bringing in attractive furnishings and decor, and most recently, livening up the billiards room and foyer, and having a beautiful floral mural painted along the hallway outside the Home-Delivered Meals office.

McCorkle, a sergeant with the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department and a former community relations deputy with the SCV sheriff's station, feels her group's work at the Senior Center is a "natural fit."

"This center is so important to our seniors. Giving them a place that is custom decorated is really a privilege," McCorkle said.

What the GRANDS have done at the Senior Center is simply wonderful, said SuzAnn Nelsen, Senior Center director of supportive services.

"Many people, from seniors to staffers to volunteers, have commented to me on how much more beautiful and inviting the Center is now, and that makes us all very happy," Nelsen said. "We are immensely grateful to the GRANDS and everyone they have enlisted to help in these efforts. Their kindness and generosity are truly heartwarming."

In addition to their Senior Center endeavors, GRANDS has also been instrumental in delivering nearly 2,000 "boxes of blessings" to seniors throughout the SCV.

Many of the elder recipients live alone on fixed incomes, and suffer with health problems. Creating smiles, the thoughtful gift packages are youth-decorated shoe boxes filled with items such as handmade crafts, cookies, puzzles, pens, movie tickets and restaurant coupons.

Boxes were personally delivered by GRANDS, local Girl Scouts and other volunteers delivered during the past holiday seasons.

"The GRANDS is truly the definitive grassroots effort," Jan Fear said. "Gerri, Corinn and I connected a few years ago at the Sheriff's toy drive and we haven't stopped since."

GRANDS began as a way to engage local youth with seniors, McCorkle said.

"The senior population seems to be growing so rapidly and we felt it was important to connect young people with seniors. To see the joy on the faces of all involved when we finish a project is absolutely priceless," she said.

Bringing seniors and youth together creates a nurturing and respectful relationship, Corinn Miklosovik said.

"In our fast-paced society many children grow up without their grandparents close-by. In many cases we've lost the closeness (we used to have)," she said, adding that these interactions help foster empathy and friendship.

Of course, the GRANDS' makeovers take money, and that funding has been supplied by GRANDS-planned fundraisers, donations from local businesses, and the efforts of caring Girl Scouts.

Some of that fundraising included: An ecology and Senior Center-friendly community electronic waste drive last spring that yielded $2,300; medical device research and development global giant Boston Scientific (a strong SCVSC proponent which also has a facility in Valencia) held its own e-waste drive enabling the GRANDS to purchase many of the tasteful decorating items for the atrium; and a donation from Princess Cruises of nearly 75 wicker chairs which have been distributed throughout the Center.

Local Girl Scouts, in conjunction with the GRANDS and a number of local businesses teamed to provide the Senior Center's most recent facelifts.

"Each of the involved Girl Scouts designed and implemented makeovers to a number of the Center's activity rooms in order to earn the coveted Girl Scouts' Gold Award, equivalent to the Boy Scouts' Eagle Scout award," McCorkle, who is also a Scout mentor, said.

"These projects truly fulfill not only the mission of GRANDS, but the spirit of the Gold Award Program. And, to receive so much support from local businesses shows they understand and value the seniors in this community."

Each girl prepared their full make over, was responsible for acquiring funding as well as materials to complete their projects, and recruit volunteers to assist in completion, McCorkle added.

"These projects reflect the implementation of the values and skills we impart on the girls," she said. "Not only are they learning tremendous organizational and budgeting skills, but they are learning the value of giving back to their community. These are lessons that will last a lifetime."

McCorkle's daughter, Erin, worked on revitalizing the Center's billiard room.

"I was amazed at how much planning and organizing had to go into this project, but it was worth it," the younger McCorkle said. "To see the looks on the seniors' faces and to hear their positive comments when the project was finished made all the hard work worthwhile."

Others who pitched in with the projects included: Girl Scouts Gabrielle Kouvounas who completed the lobby and hallway; Kate Rosen who worked on the hallway and library; Meghan Shapiro who completed the art classroom, and Riley Ferguson who redecorated the adult day care and patio. Lockheed Federal Credit Union, Target, Wal-Mart, and Vista Paint also contributed to the projects.

The GRANDS now pose a challenge to community businesses and organizations for assisting in further projects at the Senior Center, McCorkle said.

"The main dining area, which is used daily for reduced-cost senior lunches, along with a variety of activities, is in dire need of paint, an updated mural, refurbishment of the hard wood floor, new tables and chairs," McCorkle said. "Additionally, the offices that provide daily resources for seniors, including administration and Supportive Services, are in need of updating. Anyone interested in assisting in this cause, is urged to contact Jan Fear at (661) 607-5253."

Clearly, society's treatment of its elders is a reflection of its own moral compass.

The GRANDS - along with its devoted core of volunteers and donors - is proof that such elder-friendliness thrives in this valley.

GRANDS and their amazing volunteers have transformed the Senior Center through their countless hours of work and planning, said Robin Clough, Senior Center director of recreation and volunteers.

"It's been so exciting to witness the ‘ooohs and aaahs' of the seniors when they see the changes," Clough said. "Special touches are everywhere, from the butterflies on the atrium windows to the professionally painted flower scene surrounding the Home-Delivered Meal office window. Every nook and cranny has been enhanced with cheerfulness and comfort."

The GRANDS project, its leaders, and all of the volunteers and contributors have been "a godsend through their makeover efforts," said Brad Berens, executive director of the Senior Center and SCV Committee on Aging.

"We could never have done this without each and every one of them," he said.

Berens also expressed excitement over the upcoming coordinated finish of the Center's construction project, which currently underway alongside the dining area.

"When that happens, the Center will host an open house for the community, thank the GRANDS volunteers, and ‘show off' the second home of our elders who join us every day," Berens said. "What a grand community we live in."

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