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Volunteers center of operation

Posted: January 16, 2012 1:30 a.m.
Updated: January 16, 2012 1:30 a.m.

Home-Delivered Meals volunteer drivers Bruce Seratti, left, and Jackie Cortes load meals onto a truck.

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Almost every day of the week, Cecil Bernstein, 85, volunteers at the membership desk at the Santa Clarita Valley Senior Center. It’s where she signs fellow seniors up for the lunch program, coordinates with the cashiers and totals the volunteer time sheets.

It’s also where she’s made countless friends.

“People care about me and I care about them,” Bernstein said. “Volunteering makes me feel like I’m still a viable person. It gives me a reason to get out of bed in the morning.”

According to Robin Clough, director of recreation and volunteers at the center, approximately 300 volunteers help out the nonprofit organization on a regular basis.

“It’s all ages, ranging from the very young, who volunteer with their parents or scout troop, to seniors in their 90s,” Clough said. “All are here with a single purpose: wanting to help seniors. They are ready to do anything it takes to improve their quality of life.”

Volunteer opportunities can include everything from teaching a class to setting up tables in the lunchroom, as Hilda Dearmas, 75, of Valencia, has done for the past two years.

Dearmas started volunteering at the center after coming in for lunch. It was Halloween, and Ida Lee, a lunchroom volunteer, had asked her to help set up decorations for the holiday. Dearmas was hooked.

She started coming every weekday at 7:30 a.m. to set up tables and pass out desserts after the meal and stayed until lunch service ended at 12:30 p.m. to clean up.

“I like to help other people and I enjoy interacting with them. It keeps me active. It entertains me, gives me something to do,” Dearmas said.

For Ken Farnsworth, 68, of Valencia, volunteering at the center was a natural extension of his longtime profession in elderly board and care. When Farnsworth sold his business, he started driving for the center’s Home-Delivered Meals program.

The program offers low- or no-cost hot meals to homebound seniors in the Santa Clarita Valley every weekday. Farnsworth, one of 56 drivers, takes the Saugus/Valencia route once a week, and more often as needed.

“I like giving attention to people on the route, just chit-chatting with them is nice. There’s one lady, I fixed her door,” Farnsworth said. “I just like to help out the elderly. My mom has been coming here for a long time.”

Drivers are always in high demand, said Zertihun Abdulkadir, the Home-Delivered Meals coordinator.

“We can’t do it without them. It’s not just delivering food. It’s looking after everyone,” she said.

In the center’s Adult Daycare room, volunteer Sonnel Host is playing the piano, filling up the space with beautiful classical music and putting smiles on the faces of its occupants.

He comes once a week, one of the daycare’s four regular volunteers, according to supervisor Gladys Ehrhardt.

“We have another piano player and volunteers that do arts and crafts,” she said. “For me, volunteers are the most necessary help. It’s crucial for our clients to interact with others besides us and volunteers often come with great new ideas.”

To become a volunteer at the center, an application must be filled out. Skills and interests are assessed to make sure each volunteer is placed in the most beneficial way.

Besides the Home-Delivered Meals program, volunteer schedules are not fixed, Clough noted.

“Volunteers can come at their convenience, on the days that work best for them,” she said.

One of the center’s goals in 2012, according to Rachelle Dardeau, executive director, is to bring the community together.
Volunteers help make that happen in many ways, she noted, whether it’s through direct service at the center or going offsite to raise funds.

Currently, some of the center’s volunteers are spending time at a local Denny’s, where a raffle is being held for the center, and selling tickets.

“It’s really a beautiful thing to see the commitment that they have to the quality of services we provide and to helping other people,” Dardeau said. “I never get tired of hearing stories how center changed people’s lives, how they were isolated and now they have a meaningful life, because they get to help other people. “

For more information on volunteering at the Santa Clarita Valley Senior Center, call Robin Clough at (661) 259-9444, pick up an application at 22900 Market St., Newhall or visit www.scvsc.org.

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