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SCV Senior Center earns accolades from L.A. County for its Home-Delivered Meals program

Posted: November 28, 2011 1:30 a.m.
Updated: November 28, 2011 1:30 a.m.

Senior Center Home-Delivered Meals volunteer driver Bruce Seratti (left) and Zertihun “Z” Abdulkadir share a hug between daily meal send-offs.

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There’s always appreciation for a senior center that consistently serves safe, tasty and nutritious food, but a savory satisfaction is also realized when Los Angeles County quality of service oversight professionals recognize those efforts.

Such honors were recently bestowed upon the Santa Clarita Valley Senior Center’s Home-Delivered Meals program and its bustling central kitchen, each department led by Zertihun “Z” Abdulkadir and Jorge Pacheco, respectively.

The acknowledgments came in two forms:

* The Los Angeles County Community and Senior Services, Senior Nutrition Program Golden Apple Award, which recognized Abdulkadir and Pacheco for successfully completing in-service training sessions on food safety and quality, and for making significant contributions, and possessing the knowledge and skill to provide safe, quality meals.

*  The County of Los Angeles Area on Aging 2010-2011 Silver Thermometer Award, which recognized the Senior Center’s HDM program for its achievement in meeting the highest standards in serving safe food.

“It feels very good to receive these awards because it lets folks know we are taking every step possible to provide safe food,” Pacheco said. “This is our goal, along with providing good service in a nice, welcoming center that people enjoy visiting.”

The dishing out of these awards is no small order. Monday through Friday the center prepares and serves between 200-250 hot lunches for its dining room crowd. It also daily delivers 300-350 hot meals to homebound and frail seniors who cannot shop or cook for themselves.

“This recognition is really icing on the cake,” said Senior Center Executive Director Rachelle Dardeau. “We know we are excellent at what we do, but when L.A. County recognizes us, it helps the whole community know it, too.”

Critical steps in maintaining a “safe” kitchen, Pacheco noted, are maintaining cleanliness and ensuring food is held at proper temperatures to avoid bacteria and other illness-producing microbes.

Those steps — coupled with creatively crafted multicourse menus featuring everything from American meatloaf to ethnic delights — are guaranteed recipes for happy dining.

Silver Thermometer recipients also included Bouquet Canyon Senior Apartments and Friendly Valley congregate dining,
Pacheco added. Like the Senior Center, those kitchens are in L.A. County Community and Senior Services partnerships for funding and share a commitment of service excellence to seniors.

For scores of elderly men and women, a Senior Center lunch is their most wholesome and anticipated meal of the day. To those who come to the center, food is enjoyed amid friends, conversation and music.

“We really enjoy the meals here,” said Bernie Katz, an avid Senior Center attendee who met his wife Dorothy during a dining room lunch. “The food is good, the company is fun, and we always have a great time.”

For homebound people 60 and older — most typically seniors in their 80s who are fragile, disabled with chronic conditions, and lacking adequate support systems — their home-delivered meal can be the difference between remaining in their own homes or winding up in residential care facilities.

Not only does the Home-Delivered Meals program enhance seniors’ independence, dignity, and quality of life, it also enables their volunteer delivery drivers to see how they’re doing, said Senior Center Supportive Services Director SuzAnn Nelsen.

“Lives have actually been saved thanks to those observations,” Nelsen said.

Being lauded for the fruits of their labors “feels wonderful,” Abdulkadir said.

“We are in the business of feeding people, but this is much more than that,” she said. “It’s actually an amazing production, from our cooks who prepare the food, to our packing room crew, to our volunteer home-delivered meal drivers, and of course, my right hand assistant, volunteer Margie Altman … they all do an incredible job and make this a remarkable team.”

Dardeau praised Abdulkadir, Pacheco and their capable crew members for making the Senior Center a place where seniors can feel confident about their nutrition.

“Not everyone receives these awards,” Dardeau said. “Our food programs, along with the quality of people who work here and the quality of our services, are outstanding. This recognition is a wonderful testament to the work we do … and we are going to keep getting even better.”

To help the nonprofit Santa Clarita Valley Senior Center/SCV Committee on Aging by donating to its Home-Delivered Meals program or other SCVSC programs or services please call Kathy Crone, Foundation executive director at (661) 259-9444, ext. 151. If interested in becoming a Home-Delivered Meals volunteer driver, please call Z Abdulkadir at (661) 259-9444 ext. 114. To learn more about the Home-Delivered Meals program, please call Supportive Services at (661) 255-1588.

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