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Giving thanks for the place they call home

Community: Val Verde residents recognize local contributions with feast, certificates

Posted: November 24, 2010 7:17 p.m.
Updated: November 25, 2010 4:55 a.m.

Sebastian Lopez, 7, of Val Verde, sports a turkey feather hat as he enjoys his dinner.

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VAL VERDE — Thanksgiving in Val Verde has a lot to do with thanking the children who give back to their community.

Before the turkey and mashed potatoes were dished onto plates at the Val Verde Community Center on Tuesday night, and before the prayers to bless the food were uttered, homage was paid to exceptional kids in this tiny town west of Castaic.

More than 15 certificates of appreciation were handed out to a hungry but attentive dinner gathering of more than 300 people.

One of those recipients was Chris Morris, who was recognized for years as a disc jockey providing music at the center.

As he sat down at his dinner place at the table, he put his arm around his 10-year-old son Kevin and showed his framed certificate.

“My mom told me that if you put your mind to it, you can get it done,” he told The Signal, with Kevin looking on.
“My mother passed away a couple of months ago,” he added. “I owe this to my mom.”

For the past quarter century, Morris has made the Val Verde branch of the Boys & Girls Club of Santa Clarita Valley a part of his day-to-day life.

Now it’s a part of his son’s life, and part of the community’s next generation.

As kids darted here and there, scores of people stood at the back of the hall by the open door and shoulder-to-shoulder behind women in aprons ready to begin filling paper plates with food.

For every child named and called to the stage for their certificate, there was enthusiastic applause.

“It’s nice to recognized,” said Deputy Brian Rooney of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, who heads the community center’s Youth Activity League. “It’s a great program that gives them something to do and keeps them off the street.”

Jaime Briano said he’s proud to have consumed Thanksgiving Day feasts at the center every year for the last 16 years.
As site manager of the Boys & Girls Club in Val Verde, he’s proud of the tradition.

“It’s an awesome feeling,” he said, looking over scores of people laughing, talking and eating heaps of Thanksgiving food favorites.

“If you could use one word to describe how it feels to see all these people coming out, it would be ‘awesome.’ And, especially, these times being what they are.”

Marisol Serrano is supervisor of Los Angeles County’s Parks and Recreation Department in Val Verde.

“We give out awards. We do scholarships. We provide transportation,” she said, itemizing the county’s input here.

This year, she made one extremely shy 8-year-old girl her special project.

“I really wanted her to come out of her shell,” Serrano said. “She was just very, very shy and would not talk. I would say ‘Hi’ and “How are you doing today?’ and no response.”

Then, Serrano signed up Alondra Pena, now 9, for boxing lessons.

“She did really good, and we did get her come out of her shell a bit,” she said.

On Tuesday, the community gave thanks to Alondra with wild clapping and applause the moment she was called on stage to receive her certificate.

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