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Donations keep seniors healthy

Community: Nonmedical organization hosts food drive, holds event with ‘Dr. Rap’

Posted: January 9, 2011 9:43 p.m.
Updated: January 10, 2011 4:55 a.m.

Comfort Keepers’ staff, back, left to right Diane Blair, Mardee Anderson, Christy Moreland and Myles McNamara and SCV Senior Center Supportive Services Director SuzAnn Nelson, front, admire a food display, just a small sample of the donations that were gathered through Comfort Keepers’ Stop Senior Hunger drive.

Comfort Keepers cooked up a hearty idea: spearhead a Stop Senior Hunger food drive, and then hold a special event aimed at dishing out nutritional information plus a whole lot more.

That philanthropic plan recently came to fruition at the Santa Clarita Valley Senior Center in Newhall. Amid dozens of senior attendees, interventional cardiologist Dr. Sam Kojoglanian served up a compelling and often jovial lecture on senior dietary habits and methods for improving one’s health.

The gathering also featured an eye-catching presentation to the Senior Center — more than 1,100 pounds of donated nonperishable food items destined for local seniors in need.

The edible bounty had been collected in Comfort Keepers’ custom-made food donation bins that had been stationed at various businesses around the valley.

The massive food display was met with applause and appreciation.

“The sight of more than 1,000 pounds of canned and boxed foods — all generously collected for SCV seniors who might otherwise go hungry — is both heartwarming and poignant, particularly around the holidays,” said SuzAnn Nelsen, senior center director of Supportive Services.

“This mission also reminds us that while many people enjoy family tables laden with food, there are seniors nearby who do not have that luxury, not on a holiday or any day of the week.”

Nelsen praised Comfort Keepers’ hard work and kindness.

“Comfort Keepers’ generosity of time and energy, along with the many donations that came in from people throughout this community, will help feed many of our seniors, and we thank everyone who was involved with the food drive,” she said.

Kojoglanian, who treats cardiac patients through Henry Mayo Newhall Memorial Hospital, Providence Holy Cross Medical Center and his own Newhall practice, lauded the colossal food collection, calling it a blessing that many seniors will benefit from.

He also imparted a harvest of vitality-conscious tips for seniors.

Those recommendations included: consume less calories, saturated fat, salt, soda pop, processed foods and nutrition-valueless snacks; perform daily exercise; drink plenty of water; eat lots of whole grains, and raw fruits and veggies; consume foods high in cardiovascular-friendly omega-3 fatty acids (such as fish – e.g., salmon and mackerel – walnuts, flax seeds and raspberries); avoid those “glittery” foods at the supermarket that look great in the package but contain ingredients that can harm you, such as trans fats, chemical additives, lots of sodium or sugar.

“Seniors, as well as persons of any age, can dramatically improve their health by consuming normal portion sizes,” Kojoglanian said. According to Kojoglanian, America’s “super-size-it mindset” and poor food choices are contributing to increased diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular and kidney disease, musculoskeletal problems (such as “shot” knees, osteoarthritis and painful spines), increased cancer risk and early death.

“Eat less and move more,” the doctor urged the crowd. “Try to follow this old advice … in the morning, eat like a king. In the afternoon, eat like a queen. And in the evening, eat like a pauper.”

Approximately 73 million people in this country have high blood pressure and one million die from heart attacks in a given year, the physician warned.

“Between seven to eight million heart attacks suffered each year have a lot to do with what foods we eat,” Kojoglanian explained. “Fifty percent of people with coronary artery disease don’t even know it.”

Being overweight does not mean a person is getting enough to eat, he added. “Most obese people are actually malnourished because they eat the wrong things.”

Saving lives is of the utmost importance to Kojoglanian, and he frequently rejoices in that mission through curing sick hearts in operating rooms. The highly skilled cardiac procedures Kojoglanian performs include cardiac angioplasties, stent placements and other intricate interventions.

His talented hands are also adept at writing books and music. Popularly known as “Dr. Rap,” Kojoglanian composes songs and stories aimed at saving youth from violence and drugs.

Nelsen commended Kojoglanian’s wisdom and passion.

“He has actually been our guest speaker at the center prior to today, and we always enjoy how he engages his audience with interesting facts and exceptionally good humor,” she said. “For such a highly skilled physician to have that other side is a benefit for his patients and anyone within listening or treatment range.”

Comfort Keepers, headed by owner Myles McNamara, a certified senior adviser and the Senior Center Foundation’s newly sworn-in board president, fed the morning audience with a nutritious Corner Bakery breakfast.

The in-home, non-medical caregiving business also raffled off items including restaurant and grocery gift cards, hotel stays and the grand prize of a new 26-inch flat-screen television, which was won by Pat Gold. Along with his daughter Meg, McNamara presented Gold with her new TV.

Keeping with the charitable theme of feeding hungry seniors, the price of a raffle ticket was one item of donated food per attendee.

“These donated food items — everything from canned tuna to multigrain cereals to liquid nutrition – will be given out to local seniors of low income,” said Nelsen, whose department strives to keep seniors in their homes for as long as is safely possible through integrated care management, utilization of available resources and a caring, trained team of geriatric-focused staff and volunteers.

“For many recipients, these items are priceless gifts,” Nelsen continued. “Most people have no idea of how many elderly men and women struggle over how to use whatever money they have, be it for feeding themselves, affording their life-sustaining medications or keeping their beloved companion pets fed and healthy. For these people, such choices are equally important and difficult.”

McNamara, whose Comfort Keepers franchise strives to help Santa Clarita Valley seniors age with dignity and independence within their own homes, beamed at the vast food collection.

Sharing in his joy were several key Comfort Keepers’ staffers, including Diane Blair, Mardee Anderson and Christy Moreland.

“Comfort Keepers’ goal in embracing this cause was to raise awareness on senior hunger, feed seniors in need and help enlighten seniors about eating healthier and living longer,” said McNamara, who also hosts the popular KHTS AM-1220 radio show, “Aging with Power.”

“In all, we’ve had a great result and we couldn’t be happier.”

McNamara also addressed the growing problem of senior hunger.

“One in two seniors can be considered undernourished or malnourished, and this number is expected to double in the next 30 years,” cautioned McNamara.

“Millions of seniors across our county, including some within our own valley, suffer from hunger and malnutrition each day – and that is just not acceptable. Not in the Santa Clarita Valley, nor any city in the U.S.A.”

The Santa Clarita Valley Senior Center is located at 22900 Market St., Newhall. (661) 259-9444. For more information on Comfort Keepers, call (661)287-4200 or visit


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