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A check from the heart: Summerhill Villa

Summerhill Villa donates proceeds of in-house auction to SCV Senior Center

Posted: September 6, 2009 9:04 p.m.
Updated: September 7, 2009 4:55 a.m.

Ruth Milne was a Supportive Services volunteer office manager and a Summerhill Villa resident. Milne died in April at the age of 89.

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A particularly poignant check presentation was held recently at Summerhill Villa MBK Senior Living - one that came straight from the philanthropic heart with a generous dose of emotion.

The resort-like senior residential facility donated $1,000 to the Santa Clarita Valley Senior Center's Supportive Services Department - funds generated by Summerhill's own employees at a recent "in-house" post-refurbishment auction.

The money was earmarked for the Senior Center in memory of their friend, Ruth Milne, who died at age 89 on April 25.

Active and hardworking up until her sudden passing, Milne was an impassioned devotee of the Senior Center and served as its volunteer Supportive Services office manager for almost 20 years.

"Summerhill has always had a close bond with our Senior Center," Summerhill executive director Margie Veis said at the ceremony, which was well-attended by both residents and staff members.

"We also have a special place in our hearts for our friend Ruth Milne, who not only was a resident at Summerhill, but also a long-time and committed volunteer for Supportive Services. She loved the Senior Center and often said how fortunate she was to be a part of it."

The auction followed an ownership change and decision to redecorate the Lyons Avenue facility.

Remodeling plans included bringing in new furniture, art and nic-nacs to Summerhill's striking lobby, comfortable and stately "great room" dining area, and applying new window treatments.

Once plans began, the idea of selling the beautiful Summerhill furnishings and décor to staff members was well-received, as was the staff's emphatic decision to donate proceeds to the Senior Center.

"When Summerhill found out that we were fortunate enough to be remodeled, there was no question as to what we were going to do with our ‘slightly used' furniture (and décor). We have an amazing staff and we thought a great way to ‘repay' our wonderful employees would be to let them purchase all these things," Veis said.

In addition to the funds, Summerhill also donated 100 beautiful and sturdy chairs to the Senior Center following the remodel, she added.

"We are fully aware of the economic times and the effect that the current budget cuts have on the Senior Center and we wanted to do what we could for the seniors of the Santa Clarita Valley," Veis said.

Veis lauded Victor Ruelas and Hugo Sandoval, Summerhill's maintenance team, for moving all of the items to be sold at the auction into Ruth Milne's apartment.

She also noted that the decision to hold the sale there seemed a fitting place to remember Milne.

Ruelas agreed with the location choice and said he and his co-worker were glad to help.

"I knew Ruth Milne very well. The fact that we were donating this money to the Senior Center in honor of her made it all so worth it," Ruelas said.

Maria Herrera, who has been at Summerhill helping residents since it opened, said she loves the facility and the residents. She also said it's nice to have a piece of the place in her own home now.

Having bought a large wall mirror she'd long admired, Herrera recalled the evolution of that purchase.

"When I looked at that big, big mirror on the wall and I knew they were going to sell it, I said to myself, ‘That's going to be mine,'" she said.

Summerhill resident Marty Baxter, an entertainment veteran and talented organist and lyricist who regularly performs for fellow residents, spoke in superlatives of Milne.

"She was a darling," Baxter said with a wistful smile. "Ruth was so helpful and such a good neighbor to everyone here. We miss her very, very much. And everything she did at the Senior Center for all those years, she was just the ultimate volunteer."

Senior Center Foundation board member Myles McNamara said he was moved by Summerhill's charitable giving - especially in light of the current financial difficulties affecting California and the entire nation.

"Particularly now, for the staff of Summerhill to do this type of completely unsolicited act of generosity is a tribute to their hearts and service toward seniors," said McNamara, owner of Comfort Keepers In-Home Care.

"As we, the Foundation, focus on raising funds for our seniors and the Senior Center, business and individual contributions are going to be crucial for our survival during budget cuts and tough economic times."

SuzAnn Nelsen, Senior Center Supportive Services director, also lauded Summerhill's generosity.

Nelsen noted that since Summerhill's opening, it has continually supported the Senior Center and, in turn, seniors throughout the community.

Nelsen also acknowledged how much she valued Milne and cherishes her memory.

Known for her smiling blue eyes, calm demeanor, and sensible solutions to every challenge, Milne was a staple in Supportive Services and known to many colleagues as "Mama Ruth."

"She was by my side for 20 years," Nelsen said of Milne. "She was just the most wonderful person I have ever worked with - very conscientious, very reliable and so passionate about what she did. She was truly an advocate for her peers, and our department will never be the same without her. But we will always have our memories and the many lessons she left with us on how to work and live."

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