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City offers helping hand

Santa Clarita Senior Center receives aid for meals program

Posted: August 30, 2012 2:00 a.m.
Updated: August 30, 2012 2:00 a.m.
 

A one-time, $100,000 donation to the Santa Clarita Senior Center will go toward keeping the home-delivered meals program alive, center officials pledged to the Santa Clarita City Council this week.

Funding cuts to the Senior Center have forced it to turn away some seniors who arrive at the Newhall facility for a free lunch, but center organizers told council members at Tuesday night’s meeting that the greater need is among those who receive home-delivered, hot lunches.

“Home-delivered meals are now causing the heartache,” said Rick Patterson, board president for the SCV Committee on Aging, which administers the center. “Sometimes — often — this is the only contact some (of the recipients) have with other people.”

Suspension of that service can leave people not only without food, but also without a lifeline to the outside world, Patterson said.

Earlier this week, the waiting list for home-delivered meals grew 5 percent, from 58 to 61 in one day, said center Executive Director Rachelle Dardeau.

The city’s donation would immediately eliminate the waiting list and ensure those who receive home-delivered meals could do so “every day of the week, five days a week for a year,” Dardeau said.

The center provides more than 100,000 free hot lunches to people each year at its main Newhall facility, two residential centers and through the home-delivered meals program.

Council members heard from leaders of the Senior Center and the Boys & Girls Club of Santa Clarita Valley after Councilman Bob Kellar requested the city make one-time, $100,000 donations to each of the nonprofit organizations.

Audience members who stayed for the last item on the agenda Tuesday night also spoke in favor of the city’s donations, which passed unanimously. The money will come from the city’s contingency fund.

“How and where we spend our money is a direct reflection of the values of our community,” said Newhall resident Nanette Meister, urging council members to approve Kellar’s motion.

“The poor, the elderly, and the children did not cause this terrible crash that we’re in,” said Carole Lutness, suggesting the council double its donations.

Before taking their vote, council members struggled with the decision, though each ultimately supported it.

Councilwoman Marsha McLean noted that donations in the past to worthy causes sometimes resulted in other agencies withholding their donations, apparently deciding the city could take care of the situation.

She requested a letter be sent to Los Angeles County Supervisor Michael Antonovich asking that the Board of Supervisors  also donate to the Senior Center from its discretionary funds

Councilman TimBen Boydston asked for a written accounting from each agency at six months and a year from the donation time.

“As a government, our job is to take care of the safety net of our citizens,” he said.

Councilwoman Laurene Weste noted the importance of taking care of shut-ins and other seniors.

“It keeps them from mental illness, it keeps them from hospitalization,” she said. “I think it’s a savings to the public if you’re keeping people in their homes.”

Before the vote passed unanimously to audience applause, Mayor Frank Ferry expressed concern that other local nonprofits would feel slighted by the city’s donations.

“You have home-bound seniors who have to be fed,” he said, calling the funds a response to “specific, dire need that we’ve identified at this time.”

In introducing his motion, Kellar called both institutions an “extension of public services to the community.”

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