About Martha Michael


A professional writer for decades and the editor of multiple products from Valley Publications, Martha is in a constant search for new challenges. While maintaining her editing post for more than eight years, she also opened an antiques business and authored her first book, “Canyon Country,” by Arcadia Publishing.

Martha manages two blogs—one for business and one that is more personal—and works to market and perfect her craft in every arena. Lack of energy is never a problem, and Martha is daily generating ideas, taking photos and talking to members of the community. She believes strongly that “everybody has a story.”

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Ghost Building

| Canyon Country Magazine | October 9, 2018

Recently, Facey Medical Group moved from the 20,576-square-foot building at 17909 Soledad Canyon Road to their new 37,000-square-foot clinic at 14550 Soledad Canyon Road. If you’ve turned your head when driving past the vacated white building, you probably noticed that now there are two empty buildings side-by-side on Soledad.

Many Canyon Country residents remember when construction began on the orange (still unfinished) commercial property at 17901 Soledad Canyon Road back in 2006. Construction continued for two years and was abandoned when the original owner went through bankruptcy/receivership, according to Mayumi Miyasato of the City of Santa Clarita. It was purchased by Sinanian Development.

The 100,000-square-foot building remains unfinished and there is no word of any plans to complete the construction. It is approved primarily for professional office and some medical office space.

“While the city certainly would like to see the completion of the office building, which would bring jobs and/or other commercial services to the area, the city is unable to require the developer to complete the construction of the office building,” said James Chow, senior planner for the City of Santa Clarita. “From a building and safety standpoint, as long as the structure doesn’t violate any of our building codes and as long as there are no life safety issues, the building may remain in its current condition (unfinished shell).  We have not issued a Certificate of Occupancy for the building, so no portion of the building is legally occupiable.”

According to Chow, the approved use and original function of the building is for professional office space, with some space for medical offices and possibly a small coffee shop or restaurant. These are just two vacant buildings on the east side of the Santa Clarita Valley to put on your watch list. But please keep your eyes on the road when you’re behind the wheel!

Principal for a Day

| Canyon Country Magazine | October 8, 2018

The most memorable non-profit fundraisers are those that involve engaging with others, and the annual Principal for a Day event is based on a partnership that brings local business and public school personnel together.

This year, principals in the Sulphur Springs and William S. Hart school districts will welcome visitors on October 12 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., offering them a personal view of the administrative duties on campus.

Sponsored by the SCV Education Foundation, it offers business and community members an opportunity to work closely with a Sulphur Springs or William S. Hart District principal. Those who donate to the non-profit foundation get the chance to spend October 12 with a principal or with other district leaders such as superintendents, capping the experience with a luncheon at The Centre in Santa Clarita.

At this year’s awards luncheon, the non-profit will induct Tom Lee and Donna Avila into the SCV Education Foundation Hall of Fame. Lee was the founding chairman of the SCV Education Committee in 1984 and is being recognized as a Legacy recipient of the Hall of Fame. Avila worked for the City of Santa Clarita until recently and was an integral part of connecting businesses, government and schools for numerous years.

“Principal for a Day is a great opportunity to show a community member all of the great things going on at our local schools,” said Julie McBride, principal at Fair Oaks Ranch Community School. “In addition to including our community member in our morning announcements, I always plan for a day to observe a variety of classrooms at our school. As an elementary school principal, it is an opportunity to show off everything from kindergarten students working on collaborative projects on iPads to sixth-grade students working in Google Classroom. The students love to meet the Principal for a Day and our community members enjoy seeing students in action in the classrooms.”

McBride remembered one year hosting City Council member and former mayor Bob Kellar as Principal for a Day at her school. It happened to be the date of the school’s monthly spirit assemblies, so Kellar jumped in and helped with handing out awards to the kids, as well as meeting all the parents present.

“Principal for a Day is a fantastic way to show off our local schools to our local community members,” McBride added. “We have amazing schools in the Santa Clarita Valley, and the Principal for a Day program gives us the opportunity to develop positive relationships with our community. Ultimately, these ongoing relationships with local business and community members will benefit all of our students.”

For more information, or to participate in Principal for a Day, visit http://www.scveducationfoundation.org/pfad.

New Business – Stuff and Things

| Canyon Country Magazine | October 7, 2018

If it’s been awhile since you had a package to mail, you may not have noticed the changes in the Canyon Country Post Office shopping center.

Most of the businesses remain the same, and they’ve always included a wide-ranging assortment of industries – Mom Can Cook, Santa Clarita Valley Pawn Brokers, Molly Maid, Caramba Sports Bar, Santa Clarita Center for Spiritual Living, and others.

The newest business on the block is fitting in nicely with its neighbors, bringing the same eclectic spirit to its showroom floor. Stuff & Things is a new “bargain boutique” in the space where Vintage Watch and Clock Repair used to be. A father-daughter team took over the space about six months ago when they simply brought their eight-year-old eBay business to a brick-and-mortar location.

It’s fitting that the store is situated in the space that was once occupied by Vintage Watch & Clock Repair, because the walls of Stuff & Things include displays of clocks sitting beside artwork, tapestries, mirrors and other items.

Known for its “bargain prices,” there are some vintage, pre-owned goods, but much of the merchandise is new.
There is a non-stop flood of customers driving into the parking lot, and those who like to hunt for treasures make a point to stop in. The store also gets a lot of “regulars” checking in for specific items, where new merchandise hits the floor at least every week.

There are antiques, furniture, trinkets and gifts, new kitchenware, jewelry, bikes, and a surprise hit – musical instruments. They don’t accept donations and it’s not a thrift store.

Stuff & Things is open Monday through Saturday 10 a.m.-6 p.m. On Saturdays there is usually a “sidewalk sale” with specials.

The store is located at 18364 ½ Soledad Canyon Road. You can reach Stuff & Things by calling 661-450-7581 or reach the shop through social media – Facebook and Instagram: @stuffandthings661.

Al-Umma Center Muslim Worship in Canyon Country

| Canyon Country Magazine | September 12, 2018

Most of us learn as early as elementary school that it’s best not to judge a book by its cover. Of course, the principle applies to making assumptions based on external appearance, and sometimes adults need a reminder that differences among people are, in part, what make life interesting. However, there are many more aspects that people have in common, which may escape our notice.

As Canyon Country has mirrored the growth of the Santa Clarita Valley as a whole, its human landscape has broadened. As the number of residents grows, so does the breadth of cultures, food sources and religious opportunities.

When you pass Al-Umma Center on Sierra Highway, less than a mile north of Soledad Canyon Road, you may not know that it is a place of worship if you aren’t acquainted with Islam. The Muslim mosque was established in 2013 and occupies the property that used to be a tile and granite store. It was originally the area’s first feed store, said Majub El Arabi, a founding member of Al-Umma Center, who said they chose the name for the mosque to give it a connotation of a community center.

“From time to time we have family nights, where we invite the community and bring food and have a movie for the kids. And we have a youth group with a lot of activities,” El Arabi said. “We saw Canyon Country as a developing area. What better way to serve the community than to establish a center in the eastern part of the valley.”

There are hundreds of mosques in Southern California, three in Santa Clarita. Al-Umma Center was opened to serve the eastern side of the valley, which enables Muslim worshipers to find one conveniently close to their homes and workplaces. It is an added convenience during their five prayer periods per day, called “Salat.”

Each prayer time has an Arabic name: Fajr, Dhuhr, Asr, Maghrib and Isha’a. There are a certain number of “Rakaas” for each period of prayers, which is an act where Muslims bow, prostrate on the floor. The floor at Al-Umma Center has markers (photo above), which guide the body placement of worshipers so they face Mecca.

The local congregation gathers together on Fridays for prayers and reading verses from their holy book, the Quran, which is written and recited in Arabic. They hear sermons from fellow members, which are delivered in English.

“Most of our community is not Arab-speaking,” El Arabi said. “The Muslim world is made up of, roughly, 1.8 billion people, but the Arab world is only about 400 million. People mix up Muslim and Arab. Arabs don’t have to be Muslims.”

El Arabi and his family are Americans, and he brought his three children to his native country of Libya many times. He believes it would benefit this country if each young person could travel overseas.

“I think it would enlighten them,” El Arabi said. “They would be better-rounded people and appreciate more what we have. We always think the world revolves around here, but there’s a whole world out there. We are a very small part of the world.”

El Arabi moved to the United States to attend the University of California, Berkeley, where he earned a degree in engineering. A job in the oil industry brought El Arabi to Santa Clarita in 1982. His children, now grown, attended local public schools and grew up in this community, where the prominent religions are Christianity and Judaism.

“Most of our friends are non-Muslims and they are the greatest people in the world,” said El Arabi, who sits on the board of trustees for Al-Umma Center. “We create these places not to convert people, but so people can worship. … Faith is more on the individual. The spiritual part of it is personal.”

The mosque sees its biggest numbers during fasting months, called Ramadan. Based on a lunar calendar, the last Ramadan was in June-July of 2018.

“The Muslim religion requires the faithful to fast for one month during the daytime, from sunrise until sunset, and in that month we gather together at the mosque for more prayers,” El Arabi explained.

During Ramadan, the congregation comes together to break the fast, after sundown. Members take turns hosting the nightly meal in the outdoor area at Al-Umma Center. There are sometimes 200-250 people who attend those events.

“We hosted an interfaith event one night and we had 25-30 guests who were non-Muslims. People were very amazed at how lively the place is,” El Arabi said.

In addition to the simple lack of exposure Americans have had to the beliefs of Islam and the message of the Quran, El Arabi points out the image portrayed in the news, particularly when reporting a terrorist attack.

“The media doesn’t do a good job,” he said. “Every time there is a terrorist, they show people praying. … They’re contributing to the ignorance of people. … Islam does not condone any of this.”

It has been smooth sailing for Al-Umma Center’s experience in Canyon Country so far.

“We’ve never had any issue at all,” El Arabi said. “One of the things that was really gratifying was when we went through the permitting process. The city sent out a letter to people within 500 feet from the boundaries of the mosque property to see if they had an objection. … They had to include hundreds of (apartment) units. If somebody says no, they don’t have to justify it. … When they sent the letter, nobody objected.”

The Muslim congregation sometimes gets letters of approval from individuals in town, saying they are happy to have the Center here. “By and large, we’ve been good neighbors to them and they’ve been good to us,” El Arabi said.

SEAson of Learning for Canyon Country Teen

| Canyon Country Magazine | September 10, 2018

Like the summer vacations of some of her classmates, Hermione Quintos took in ocean views, experienced life on an island and sampled exotic foods.

No, she wasn’t on a Caribbean cruise or hitting the beach in Hawaii. The 15-year-old Golden Valley student spent a week discovering sea life through marine biology research and tasting such delicacies as kelp. These experiences were part of an exclusive educational opportunity on Catalina Island – the USC Sea Life Grant/Wrigley Marine Lab, which involved fewer than 20 students selected from across the nation. It’s a partnership with the Center for Dark Energy Biosphere Investigations and Wrigley Institute for Environmental Studies through USC’s Dana and David Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences.

The Sea Grant tagline is “Science serving our urban coast.” The program includes island and ocean exploration, student research and presentations, as well as STEM activities. Over the course of the week, students work with local researchers, conduct their own research projects, snorkel, kayak, explore the marine protected areas around the island, learn about careers in marine science, and build their own remotely operated vehicles (ROVs).
“We went on little trips, like kayaking and night circling,” said Hermione, a lifelong Canyon Country resident who attended Cedarcreek Elementary School, La Mesa Junior High and is now a junior at Golden Valley High School. “We saw a ray, a horn shark, an eel and flying fish. One of the instructors said it was rare to get to see (a flying fish), and a big one ended up smacking him in the chest.”

The students’ activities were “learning lab” experiences, such as swimming at night and witnessing the naturally occurring bioluminescence in Fishermen’s Cove. All of the participants had glow sticks attached to their snorkel masks, adding bursts of color to the water and making it easier for counselors to monitor the teens.

The weeklong course, including travel, is free for the students and it is focused on reaching under-represented communities in the sciences. It is designed to both provide new and challenging scientific experiences and the chance to meet people with similar interests and passions. The teens design and build an ROV from scratch using PVC pipe, wires, and a sheet of instructions, so the students learn the basics of soldering, wiring, and engineering.

“Personally, I wanted to go there to get a better understanding of things that affect nature,” said Hermione, who plans to pursue veterinary medicine. “That trip enabled us to understand not just animals, but also the microorganisms that affect them, and diseases, as well.”

When asked what was her most valuable takeaway, Hermione said, “Understanding there’s so much more to nature than when you’re on the mainland. It’s usually ignored as insignificant, but it affects you entirely.”

Hermione’s week on the island has given her food for thought. “I plan to change not only how I live, but the way I eat fish,” she said. “Change my lifestyle – what products I use and foods I eat, pertaining to animals.”

The teen hopes that more students get to experience programs like the Sea Life Marine Lab.
“Most people don’t know there isn’t just one program, there are many,” she said. “Whether you’re wealthy or not, there are so many opportunities if you look for them.”

As for Hermione Quintos’ future, there are many places it could lead. But we know that for next summer – she’s looking for another program.

Christine Hermann – Local Ball of Fire Thanks First Responders

| Canyon Country Magazine | September 7, 2018

It wasn’t a five-alarm fire that Station 107 responded to 36 years ago, but it did send five men to a near fatal accident on Flowerpark Drive in Canyon Country. A day before her 13th birthday, Christine Hermann lay in the middle of the street, knocked unconscious and bleeding from her ears after being hit by a speeding car in her own neighborhood. Those first responders in 1982 went on to many years of service in the fire department, never knowing if Hermann had survived. It’s a fact she wanted to do something about, and she did it last month.

The firefighters were each invited to a luncheon at Fire Station 107 on Soledad Canyon Road, where Hermann could communicate her gratitude to them and present them with a copy of a book she wrote about her life since that day.

“My story was not complete until I could thank you,” a teary Hermann said to the three men who attended, while current firefighters and television media looked on. “This was the highest priority, because 36 years had passed … and it’s so dear to my heart to be able to thank these men.”

Speaking into KTTV reporter Susan Hirasuna’s microphone, Hermann was able to thank them in front of a wider public audience. The first responders that helped her 36 years ago were: Captain Pete Casamassima, firefighter paramedic Jim Bettencourt, firefighter paramedic Gary Dellamalva, engineer Terry Butler and firefighter Rich Ward. (Butler and Ward could not attend the luncheon.)

Hermann’s memoir, entitled “Because It Didn’t Kill Me,” tells about her experience emerging from a coma and living with a traumatic brain injury, or TBI. As cathartic as it was authoring the book, Hermann wasn’t done until she completed this final chapter: meeting the men who saved her.

“It’s amazing. I’m just blown away that this meeting is actually happening,” she said. “I didn’t expect it was going to be that formal. … I actually wanted to just thank them and meet them. Gary Dellamalva told me, ‘We learned in training when a patient is bleeding out of their ears that it’s usually really grave and they’re probably not going to make it.’”
Because they spent years responding to calls, two of the firefighters didn’t specifically remember Hermann’s incident until last year, when they were contacted to meet her. Except for Dellamalva.

“I remembered it vividly because I was new,” he said, stating several times that the seriousness of the accident left him assuming her prognosis was likely to be poor. “I didn’t know the outcome. I didn’t want to know.”

Hermann’s recovery was, in fact, much better than expected. She relearned a lot of the skills she had lost due to the head injury.

“When I came out of the coma I didn’t realize what happened to me,” Hermann explained. “In research for my book, documents said when people have TBI (traumatic brain injury) they remember what they could do before the injury.”
Hermann could recall, and she wanted to quickly return to her activities, which included horseback riding, gymnastics and soccer. She had trouble accepting her limitations, and even tried to escape from one of her hospital stays.

“I had it all planned out in my mind,” she said. “I got out of my bed, I was crawling down the hall, and the nurse found me.”

Her reason for writing the book was to make others aware of the lifelong limitations a victim of TBI experiences.

“For a lot of people with TBI, the physical injuries heal, but the cognitive ones remain,” she said.

Hermann has been denied disability because her handicaps aren’t evident. She has a bachelor’s degree from Point Loma Nazarene University and a master’s degree from California State University, Northridge. She became a teacher, which makes her look good on paper, but that’s where her injuries held her back.

“Substituting was easy – I’d just follow the lesson plans,” she said. “They were already organized for me.”

But she lacks the organizational skills to handle her own classroom. “Here I am, 48 years old,” Hermann said. “I’d like to be in a career I could do professionally, but my brain can’t organize. … I’m now working at a grocery store and writing my books.”

She’s actually working on her fourth children’s book. It’s a project she can more easily concentrate on completing, now that the last chapter of her memoir is done – showing her gratitude to the first responders who saved her life.

“I’m glad I got to thank them,” Hermann said. “They ‘re taken for granted. They play such an important role. They save lives and they help dreams come true.”

Andrew Skinner of Triumph Foundation Talks Spinal Cord Injury Research

| Canyon Country Magazine | September 7, 2018

Researchers at University of California, San Diego released a report this summer showing progress in clinical trials treating spinal cord injuries. Scientists were able to successfully create stem cells that could be applied to injuries of the spine, which makes it more possible to advance to human clinic trials in a few years, according to UC San Diego’s website.

It is good news for Canyon Country non-profit Triumph Foundation, which offers resources to victims of paralysis from disorders and injuries. But the timeline for results is unknown.

“Typically, with these types of studies they first go into a Phase 1 period, which involves a very small test sample,” says Triumph founder Andrew Skinner. “The main thing is not to see if it helps, but to make sure they don’t have any adverse effects from the treatment.”

After implanting stem cells in human subjects and they find it does not cause harm, it clears Phase 1 and moves into a second phase.

“That’s where they’ll start testing for actual results,” Skinner says. “The sample size is larger, but is certainly not open to the public.”

Researchers work with specific facilities, he says, as well as targeted participants, in order to achieve the type of data they need.
“Then, once it clears that, it goes to the third phase,” Skinner says. “That’s when it gets more exciting, because it’s right before the FDA is really serious about opening it up to public use. It is a long way out.”

Skinner, who is also the victim of a spinal cord injury, cautions his clients about becoming overly hopeful.

“It’s super exciting,” he says. “But I’ve been injured for 14 years (and) they’ve been saying the cure is five years away for a long time now.”

Research so far has been primarily for the newly injured, he says. The hope is that early intervention can actually prevent someone from becoming paralyzed.

“They were inserting stem cells into people just two or three days after injury,” he explains. “Almost everybody who suffers a paralyzing injury does regain a certain amount of function from the initial prognosis. What you don’t know is if they would have had the same recovery anyway. It’s kind of a subjective thing.”

When Andrew and Kirsten Skinner started Triumph Foundation, the standard procedure for non-profits was to raise money for research. But they wanted to improve the lives of spinal cord injury victims themselves.

“One of the reasons we started it was that we thought, ‘What about people’s day-to-day experience?’” he says. “We were encountering people who needed things like a wheelchair ramp … practical, quality of life things.”

Research is always on Skinner’s radar, however. “It’s certainly a conversation in our community,” he says. “On a personal level, we don’t want to hold our breath for this cure that may be coming some day. We want to live each day now to the fullest.”
Researchers contact Triumph for candidates willing to take part in their studies, and the Skinners stay updated, though not “in the thick of it,” he says.

“The big thing that we try to stress to people is, ‘Don’t spend tens of thousands of dollars traveling outside the country for treatments that are untested and do not have a scientific basis,’” Skinner explains. “There are a lot of people who prey on people who are suffering and give them hope.”

And another down side, he says, is if a spinal cord injury victim does take part in these unofficial trials, they will likely be excluded from any subsequent trials going on in the United States.

“There are a lot of developed countries that are very actively pursuing treatments and cures,” Skinner says. “It’s just not here yet.”
2nd Annual Superheroes Triumph 5K

The Triumph Foundation is hosting a run, walk & roll on Saturday, Sept. 15 from 7-11 a.m. The 2nd Annual Superheroes Triumph 5K will take place at Lake Balboa Park, 6300 Balboa Blvd. in Van Nuys.
Runner perks include a finisher’s medal, bib, and of course, a cape! All of the proceeds benefit Triumph Foundation to forward its mission to help people triumph over paralysis.

Costumes are encouraged – in fact, the best dressed caped crusader will win a prize. Registration and packet pick-up begins at 7 a.m. and the race begins at 8:00 a.m. sharp. Community members may enter by visiting Triumph-Foundation.org or email Randi@Triumph-Foundation.org.

Canyon Country Woman Meets Firemen Who Saved Her

| News | August 16, 2018

Thirty-six years have gone by since Christine Hermann was hit by a car while playing in her neighborhood on Flowerpark in Canyon Country, just one day before her 13th birthday. After stabilizing the victim and sending her to the hospital, the five responders from Fire Station 107 on Soledad Canyon Road never saw her again.

Until Wednesday.

Speaking into microphones from local television news media, Hermann was able to publicly thank three of the men who saved her: Captain Pete Casamassima, firefighter paramedic Jim Bettencourt, and firefighter paramedic Gary Dellamalva. Engineer Terry Butler and firefighter Rich Ward were not in attendance.

“My story was not complete until I could thank you,” a teary Hermann said to the three first responders. “This was the highest priority, because 36 years had passed … and it’s so dear to my heart to be able to thank these men.”

Hermann’s story is her self-published memoir, “Because It Didn’t Kill Me,” where she talked about her experience emerging from a coma after being struck and found unresponsive, then suffering from a debilitating brain injury. As cathartic as it was authoring the book, Hermann wasn’t done until she completed this final chapter: meeting the men who saved her.
“It’s amazing,” she said. “I’m just blown away that this meeting is actually happening.”

Because they spent years responding to calls, Hermann’s incident wasn’t at the forefront of their memories until last year, when they were contacted to meet her. It was different, however, for Gary Dellamalva.

“I remembered it vividly because I was new,” he said, stating several times that the seriousness of the accident left him assuming her prognosis was likely to be poor. “I didn’t know the outcome. I didn’t want to know.”

Hermann wrote the book after being denied disability, because the assumption was that if she had earned a master’s degree, she would not have a need for it. She believes there are a lot of misunderstandings about people with traumatic brain injuries.

“You may look normal on the outside, but you have a hidden injury inside that affects your life for the rest of your life,” she said.

But this week was for celebrating. Because although she already shared her story through the book, on Wednesday Christine Hermann got to share her gratitude.

Night Shift – Kimberly Night Takes the Roads Less Traveled

| Canyon Country Magazine | August 7, 2018

Kimberly Night has traveled some unexpected roads, first bringing her to Canyon Country, then winding her way through an education at College of the Canyons, and finally, onto the college faculty.

Her field of expertise? Automotive Technology.

Night grew up in a small Northern California city, but moved to L.A. County for greater career opportunities and an abundance of activities. She and her husband, Christopher, decided to move to the Santa Clarita Valley for the schools. Their family, which includes two daughters, Victoria, 14, and Piper, 4, settled in Canyon Country for four years until recently purchasing a house in the San Fernando Valley.

Night decided the next part of her journey would be to expand her education, so she began considering what she wanted to study.

“I thought about the things I loved to do and what I found myself doing on a regular basis,” she said. “Being that there are no careers in buying shoes, working on and improving vehicles is my next biggest passion. So I vetted the schools offering automotive courses around the L.A. area.”

After sitting in on classes at each school she considered, Night chose College of the Canyons, and completed 60 percent of her general education requirements at the Canyon Country campus. It is where the automotive program is housed, so all of the core classes for that certificate are offered there. (She was awarded a pin, which she wore at her graduation, signifying that she took more than half of her classes on COC’s east campus.)

“I already knew quite a bit about vehicles, so I needed schooling to polish up my skills and help me with the more advanced skills required for modern vehicles,” she said. “I took the automotive and engineering courses, getting my degree in Automotive Technology MLR (Maintenance & Light Repair). I was the first female to complete the Associate of Arts degree in Automotive Technology at College of the Canyons.”

That wasn’t Night’s only “first.” While in her final semester of college, she was invited to do an internship at the Los Angeles Police Department. “I was excited to work LAPD garage, see how their shop ran and what opportunities may be available in the future,” she said. “The employees within the motor transport division of LAPD were amazing. … They had never had a female on the shop floor working before. So, my first day on the job was quite exciting for everyone.”

The office staff embraced the trailblazer, placing her name on one of the lockers in the women’s restroom.

“The sweet gesture made me feel welcome and like part of their team,” she said. “The office employees, along with the shop employees, were all waiting in anticipation to see if I would know what I was doing or if I would even do the task at hand. Of course, I did have the knowledge necessary and I did complete the job.”

It would not be the first workplace where Night would have to prove herself, but it was one of the friendliest. “Throughout my time there, no matter which facility I was at, it felt like home,” she said. “As big as the LAPD Motor Pool is, the employees within it are so inviting and pleasant to work with. I was genuinely excited and happy to go in each day to work with the employees at LAPD.”

With plans to complete her bachelor’s degree in the next couple of years, Night was thrilled to become a member of the COC faculty.

“Everyone at College of the Canyons is very forward-thinking and trying to stay in the forefront of their department’s area of focus,” she explained. “As I was finishing my degree, the faculty and staff at COC encouraged me to go for a position within the college.”

Night recently taught the Summer Institute Automotive course at the Canyon Country campus, which is a program that gives students going into grades 6-8 a chance to learn and experience what it is like inside various professions. In her automotive camp the young teens were able to work in the shop, just as adults would.

“My students assembled a working four-cylinder engine, which they took home,” Night said. “While these students do not yet drive, they learned about common roadside emergencies and how to properly respond to them.”

They constructed rolling vehicles from snack cakes, candy, crackers, marshmallows, etc. and held a competition to see whose car would roll the farthest. “The winning car was actually quite impressive,” Night said.

College of the Canyons’ Automotive Technology Department will expand its community education in the near future, according to Night. There is a course for women planned, as well as a course designed for teenagers as they become new drivers.

“This course will go over maintenance, handling, roadside emergencies, red flags and the like,” Night said.

Canyon Country residents, as well as other members of the community, can take advantage of the opportunities. And, of course, they’re likely to find Kimberly Night at the front of the class – at least some of the time – because College of the Canyons has learned that when trying something new, it’s smart to put someone on the job who knows the way.

Vista Canyon’s Developing Story

| Canyon Country Magazine, Sand Canyon Journal | August 6, 2018

The most common question developer Jim Backer receives from local residents is: “When will the Vista Canyon project be done?”

And like his 185-acre property between Soledad Canyon, Lost Canyon and Sand Canyon roads, Backer’s answer is anything but short and sweet. But he’s happy with the progress, and he feels the market is receptive to the types of amenities Vista Canyon is bringing to Canyon Country. Those include 1,100 residential units, nearly 1,000,000 square feet of commercial space, a new Metrolink station and more than 21 acres of recreational areas.

To begin with, much of the base utilities – sewer, water, storm drain, etc. – are getting completed on the west side.

“It’s really looking good over there,” Backer said. “They have the underground parts done, mostly. It’s coming along, making good progress.”

The first project completed will be the water reclamation plant, which should be finished in October or November of this year.

“It’s required to be operational before we start,” Backer said. “SCV Water is eventually going to have a pipeline for the excess water and they’ll build a tank.”

There’s a ramping up phase, Backer said, because there are a number of people who have to sign off on the plant.

Transportation Stations
“A lot of good things happened at Metrolink this month,” Backer said in mid-July. “Ninety-five percent of the drawings are completed.”

Money from the California gas tax has been allocated to construct a new Metrolink train station at Vista Canyon – $9 million, actually. Of course, that money could be jeopardized if the ballot initiative to repeal the 12-cent gas tax increase passes in November. City of Santa Clarita leaders have been working to acquire grants for the station’s construction, and part of its financing is on the shoulders of Backer’s company.

“They’ve never had another developer contribute to a train station like we have,” Backer said. “None of the other three train stations ever had significant developer contributions like ours has. The city is working on getting it funded and we’re optimistic it will be in the next two years.”

A bus transfer station that’s a part of the Vista Canyon project is scheduled to commence construction later this year, he said.

Office Space
One of the earliest aspects of the Vista Canyon project is construction of office space, which will be operational by the end of the year, Backer said. And apartments should be available a year later.

“When people see activity there, and Metrolink starts to be a reality, it’ll excite the office crowd,” the developer said.

There will be 650,000 square feet of office space and 165,000 square feet of retail stores. And with another 130,000 square feet for a hotel, Vista Canyon is almost 1 million square feet.

Most of the retail store space is on Lincoln Place, which starts at the river and goes to the train station. The development will be a mix of professional tenants and possibly big tenants who relocate here.
This fall, the project will encompass a structure where apartment dwellers and office space employees can park.

“That’s going to happen,” Backer said. “We’ve done the conceptual design which is leading to permanent design, which is in process. It gets a lot of scrutiny … making sure the radius is correct, and making sure they can get horse trailers through there.”

The testing process for the size of the roundabout involves constructing it larger than the actual size of a horse trailer, he said. JSB Development expects it to be completed next summer, but it’s based on the approval process. Of course, it will be easier to build when kids are on a break from school.

Jefferson Vista Canyon is the name of the 480-unit luxury apartments being constructed on the west side of the property by JPI, a company specializing in multi-family residences. The east side of the property is being sold by JSB to a builder who will move forward with the sale of new single-family homes. “That’s moving along; they’re in escrow,” Backer said. “We have roads with curbs on them now, and eventually they’ll have pavement and landscaping.”

“Assuming the deal closes in fall, we’re probably starting construction on the park late this year or early next year,” Backer said. “The park takes about six months or a little bit more.”

The bridge over the Santa Clara River bed is a few years away. “We’ve designed the bridge and submitted it to the city for review check,” Backer explained. “We will build that sometime between now and April of 2020. And it’ll take about a year to build.”

Most residents are aware of other Canyon Country building projects, as well. JSB Development sees them as fellow contributors to the improvement of the east side of the Santa Clarita Valley.
Sand Canyon Resort Hotel & Spa
Jim Backer shared his thoughts on other projects, such as the former Robinson Ranch Golf Club, now Sand Canyon Country Club. Owner Steve Kim is in the planning stages of an expansion into a resort hotel and spa.

“I applaud some of the vision for what’s going on there to make it more accessible to people, to build on what’s there,” Backer said. “It’s a great property, the topography and everything else.”

What Jim Backer and his associates have learned in the years leading up to Vista Canyon’s fruition is that the community matters.

“Mr. Kim (owner of the Sand Canyon Country Club) is in a neighborhood that wants to have input,” Backer explained. “His success here is going to be dependent on his ability to have community support. … The key is it’s taking into consideration good ideas and the needs of the community and the needs of the project.”
The developer said he disagrees with some residents who are concerned with further construction. “I don’t see it as the traffic generator that some people think, if it’s designed sensitively and there’s appropriate parking and access,” Backer said. “You have to see how the plan comes out in the end.

He doesn’t see the planned resort as a competitor to Vista Canyon. “I think it can be very complementary to what we’re doing,” Backer said. “It’s positive for that side of town. If Mr. Kim builds on what he has in a positive way, we would certainly support that.”

Sand Canyon Plaza
Tom Clark, the developer of Sand Canyon Plaza, is in regular communication with the JSB Development team.

“I think he’s getting pretty close to starting,” Backer said. “He’ll have some services there on his side of the freeway, and we have a pretty easy connection to him, so people living either place who want to go to the other – there’s some real opportunities over there for being really eco-sensitive.”

Backer has seen a lot of changes in Canyon Country in the nearly 15 years since Vista Canyon was in the idea phase. “Fair Oaks, Skyline – it’s creating energy and I think it’s turning out well,” he said. “With quality projects you get services and people have places to live and recreation and retail.”

So, how does Jim Backer answer the question, “How long will Vista Canyon take?”

He says: “People will be amazed from now to about 30 months from now, that 80 percent is built in the next three years.”


| Canyon Country Magazine | August 5, 2018

Becoming a new mom can be both physically and emotionally challenging. Not only does she have to recover from the grueling experience of labor (and surgery, if she has a C-section), but it’s a complete change of family structure. Adapting to this lifestyle, including relationship transitions, can sometimes feel lonely, which is why new parents can benefit from activities that provide social opportunities.

FIT4MOM connects women who have young children, attempting to meet both fitness and social needs through exercise classes. It began 12 years ago with its flagship program, Stroller Strides, and has grown to include more than 150 members in five programs across the Santa Clarita Valley. It’s also expanded to offer other stroller-based, prenatal, and kid-free workouts, and anywhere from three to 30 moms attend classes, depending on locations.

“We are thankful that FIT4MOM is a safe space for moms to come and connect with each other, and relate over their shared experiences and season of life,” said Dani Cohen, MA, BCBA, owner of FIT4MOM Santa Clarita Valley. “Every Saturday we have Family Stroller Strides, where dads can come with Mama and their littles and participate in the Stroller Strides workout for free!”

While most people think of Stroller Strides when they think of FIT4MOM, Cohen says it’s much more.

“We’re kind of the total mama package,” she said. “It’s a total body workout you can do with your little one(s) in tow. We meet at local parks and intermix intervals of strength training and cardio as we move around the park and entertain our little ones.”

FIT4MOM programs include:
Stroller Strides is a total-body conditioning workout designed for moms with kids in tow. Each 60-minute workout is comprised of strength training, cardio and core restoration, all while entertaining the little ones with songs and activities.
Stroller Barre is a unique blend of ballet, Pilates, barre, yoga and stroller-based exercises designed to help moms build strength and muscle tone and improve posture.
Prenatal Fit4Baby is a program designed to strengthen your body for all the changes you will experience during pregnancy. These classes exclusively focus on pregnant moms.
Body Back is a results-based workout (kid free) designed for moms who want their body back, whether they just had a baby or their last child was born 20 years ago. The experience includes two 60-minute HIIT (high-intensity interval training) workouts per week, pre- and post-fitness assessments, nutrition guidance, supplemental online workouts and support.
FIT4MOM Run Club is for moms who are training for an upcoming 5K, 10K or half marathon race, or just want to enjoy some extra cardio with other like-minded mamas. A program for all levels, Run Club allows you to run, improve your health and fitness, and connect with other moms through two styles of class: Run Clinics to work on strength, speed and agility; and Run Days to work on increasing endurance and mileage.
“One of my favorite things that you get with FIT4MOM is the ‘Our Village’ experience,” Cohen explained. “Through the multiple playgroups we offer weekly, monthly Moms Nights Out, monthly family field trips, and quarterly philanthropy. Our Village is the piece of the FIT4MOM puzzle that fosters meaningful relationships between Mama and Mama, Mama and Baby, and Baby and Baby, and Mama and her community.

There are six locations across the Santa Clarita Valley. Stroller Strides and Stroller Barre classes meet at the Castaic Sports Complex, Bridgeport Park, and Fair Oaks Park. The Family Stroller Strides classes meet on Saturdays at Golden Valley Park. The Body Back classes meet at the Santa Clarita Sports Complex, and the Run Club meets at Valencia Heritage Park.

There are various membership options, based on the mom’s needs. “All our instructors are highly trained and certified in pre- and post-natal fitness and experts in the pre- and post-partum body,” Cohen said. “Your first class is free!”

For more information, visit santaclaritavalley.fit4mom.com/your-first-class-is-free.

What some moms are saying:

I live in Canyon Country and teach Stroller Strides at Fair Oaks Park and Bridgeport Park, and I coach the Run Club. I have been attending classes for 3 ½ years and teaching for just over a year. My favorite part about FIT4MOM is the community. I was new to the area when I had my first child with no family nearby. I tried Stroller Strides and instantly had the friendships and support I needed. I count down the days to our Mom’s Nights Out and Family Field Trips every month, because I love the extra time with the people I have met through FIT4MOM. 

My two children now love going to classes and spending time with their friends after classes. They often reenact the exercises the moms did during class for fun. I love that the classes are accessible to all levels of fitness. I have attended classes both pregnant and newly postpartum and was able to modify workouts as needed for how I was feeling. After regaining most of my fitness and strength a year and half after my second child, I still am challenged by the workouts. 

Kimberly Carden, Instructor

I have been with FIT4MOM for almost two years, starting when my son was 3 months old. I live in Agua Dulce and go to the Bridgeport and Fair Oaks classes. 

I’ve always been athletic and pretty healthy, so when I had my son and I went to the gym and saw the daycare, I was not impressed. FIT4MOM provided me with a way that I could get my workout in and keep my son with me.

The things I love the most I never even knew I needed: mom friends and friends for my son. I can work out on my own if I really wanted, but nothing can replace the connections I’ve made through FIT4MOM. These ladies are the only people I can be brutally honest with about “mom life.” Let’s be honest, being a mom isn’t all rainbows and butterflies. There are days where the kids test your limits, where they push you to do and say things you never thought you would say, and sometimes you just need a friend to commiserate with. These last few weeks I haven’t been able to work out because of pregnancy, and now post-labor, and I find myself going to the end of class just to have a play date for my son and to see my friends. 

FIT4MOM has been a great addition to my routine and I would recommend it to everyone. 

Nicole Mena

I started with FIT4MOM in the summer of 2016 when I moved from Dayton, Ohio to Canyon Country. FIT4MOM has completely changed my life. I feel very grounded in my identity as a mother and value the importance of wellness and self-care. I joined the FIT4MOM Santa Clarita Valley team in June of 2018. I have the pleasure of helping mamas make connections with other mamas in the Santa Clarita Valley and achieve their health and wellness goals. 

I love the time that I get to spend with my little one, outside, being active. We always say, “They are always watching,” and it’s the truth. Not long after my son could walk, he could do a burpee. I love the emphasis on coming as you are. We juggle multiple roles including partner, sister, daughter, colleague, supervisor, etc., in addition to mom. I know that when I come to Stroller Strides or a Mom’s Night Out, I can bring my whole self and be valued. All of the women in our village are about lifting each other up and providing support. There is amazing diversity among the women in our group and it just makes our interactions so rich and fulfilling. I can’t imagine mothering without these women.

Staci Daniels-Sommers, MSW
Membership Director, FIT4MOM SCV

I have been a participant of Fit4Mom for two years. I’ve been to their Bridgeport and Fair Oaks locations, as well as their Body Back sessions at the Sports Complex. I live in Fair Oaks, so I was very excited when they started teaching classes there earlier this year!

I have three children (5, 2, and 3 months) and my favorite part of Fit4Mom was finding women that I became extremely close with over the last two years. I now have a close-knit group of women that I know I can lean on if I ever need support. I continued going to classes all through my last pregnancy, and it made this third labor and delivery so much easier! I am now looking forward to getting back in shape after having my third child.

Lauren Dilles

I have been a participant in FIT4MOM for over two years now. I live in Fair Oaks and attended Bridgeport classes for a while and now attend mostly at Fair Oaks Park. I have done Stroller Strides, Stroller Barre and Body Back classes. It’s a truly excellent program and a great way for moms to get their workout in and have some time for themselves. There are built-in activities for kids, playgroups, and mom’s night outs! I’ve met and made great friends and it’s been something my kids look forward to!

Jenna Buonanno

Medical Move New Facey Building on Soledad Canyon

| Canyon Country Magazine | August 3, 2018

Facey Medical Group patients who live on the eastern side of Canyon Country have never had a long drive to see their doctors, considering the facility is less than five miles from the Stone Crest development. At the end of the month they’ll have even more reason to be on time for appointments: Facey is moving to a brand new building at 14550 Soledad Canyon Road, less than a mile southwest of Shadow Pines Boulevard.

“We’d been looking at a move for several years for a few reasons,” explained Roscoe Marter, M.D., Facey Medical Group vice president and regional medical director for the Santa Clarita Valley. “We wanted more space that was better designed for our clinic needs. “(Also) the city was unwilling to install a traffic signal at our current location, which we felt was an important safety issue for our patients.”

The new 37,000-square-foot clinic will be located at 14550 Soledad Canyon Road and will offer expanded radiology services, a larger Facey Eye Center, and room to add new physicians as it grows. It was designed by Boulder Associates and is being built by Duke Realty.

  • Facey’s key features include:
  • Same-day access to adult and pediatric primary care
  • Clinical environment that is designed for team-based care
  • Extended adult primary care hours on Mondays
  • Expanded radiology services, including ultrasound and mammography
  • Expanded optometry & Eye Center
  • On-site urgent care services provided by Facey affiliate, Exer Urgent Care, which is estimated to open in December
  • 24-hour telephone access to an on-call Facey physician
  • Comprehensive patient education and disease management programs
  • Manage your health and appointment schedule online or from a smartphone using MyChart from Providence
  • Care from Providence hospitals connected via unified health record system

The clinic is tentatively scheduled to open the week of August 27, but it could change, depending on final occupancy permits. For more information, call 661-250-5200.

Former Facey Building
When the medical professionals move into the new Facey facility, the vacated building at 17909 Soledad Canyon Road (photo at left) will be put up for sale, represented by Ryan Rothstein-Serling at Marcus & Millichap real estate brokerage. The building’s owner purchased the 20,576-square-foot building as an investment and its makeup is positioned well for medical use or an academic entity, such as a charter school, according to Rothstein-Serling. He says the two-story building has a number of divided spaces on both floors, which can be used for multiple tenants or separate classrooms.

To inquire about the building, contact senior associate Ryan Rothstein-Serling at 818-212-2725 or through the website, Marcusmillichap.com.

Canyon Cowboys Hit 50 Years 1968-2018

| Canyon Country Magazine | August 3, 2018

A 50-year reunion is planned for anyone in the community who wants to celebrate with Canyon High School. An event is planned in conjunction with the school’s Back to School Night on Tuesday, Sept. 4, 2018 from 6-9 p.m. at the school, 19300 W. Nadal Street in Canyon Country.

The anniversary celebration will start in the Performing Arts Center (PAC) with a welcome message and screening of a 50th Anniversary film. Throughout the evening there will be student performances, and entertainment by the alumni band, a memorabilia walk in the gym and a car show. Visitors can purchase food from several food trucks at the event.

Members of the community can purchase a 50th Anniversary Brick, which will become a permanent part of the Performing Arts Center at Canyon. To find out how to buy one, just visit Engravedbricks.com/campaign/canyon.

In next month’s Canyon Country Magazine you will learn who is on the “50th Most Influential List.” Individuals from the school’s history will be recognized for their contributions in the areas of athletics, arts/entertainment, business, education, and government. It will include a picture and a short biography on display at the event.

It is Canyon’s “Back to School Night” as well, so teachers will be present and available to answer questions regarding curriculum. The Cowboy community and the public are invited to celebrate 50 years of school pride, the many traditions, and academic excellence. For more information about the Canyon High School 50th Anniversary, visit CanyonHighCowboys.org.

Blasts in the Past

Cheerleaders (L to R): Heather Moran, Leah Purcell, Kelly Houston (Seidenkranz) and Cyndi Yee

Now a Canyon High School Spanish teacher, Kelly Seidenkranz graduated from CHS in 1988. As a student, Kelly was very involved on campus, including journalism, cheerleading, and a program called “Special Friends,” where she had lunch with visiting students who had Down syndrome. She was the president of California Scholarship Federation (CSF), was a member of National Honor Society, and was in Spanish Honor Society, officially called “Sociedad Honoraria Hispanica,” or SHH.

How is Canyon High School different than it used to be?
Kelly: Technology has changed everything. When I first started teaching at Canyon, we took roll call on paper, did our grades manually, and listened to announcements on the all-call instead of watching what is now CNN (Canyon News Network) on TV. As a student, I was using a typewriter to type all my papers – it wasn’t until my senior year that I got a typewriter with which you could edit, but you could only view one line at a time. And, of course, we didn’t have the Internet!

What is Canyon High School like today?
Canyon has become a very beautiful campus, as they have done many

Kelly Seidenkranz (left) with retired teacher “Señor Ed,” who inspired her to become a Spanish teacher and helped her get a job at Canyon. “He was a Canyon High legend pretty much, and he started at Canyon the year the school opened,” Seidenkranz said. “We are friends to this day.”

renovations, but it still maintains some of its original charm and beauty, in my opinion. Ethnic diversity is much more apparent on our campus than when I was a student. There is also now an exceptional leadership program at our school that helps fight bullying, prevent violence, and foster communication among different peer groups and staff. It is completely led by students, and I believe it is one of our greatest strengths as a school. This program would have been wonderful, had we had it when I was a student, and I wish every school in our district had a similar program.

What is the same about Canyon High School today?
Canyon still feels very much like a family, in that people support each other and take an interest in each other’s lives. It was like that for me as a student. I had more than a few teachers who really encouraged me to become more than I had ever imagined was possible for me. 

Canyon is truly part of my DNA, as not only did I graduate from Canyon, but so did my siblings. I taught both my son and my brother-in-law Spanish, and I’ve had both my brother and my mother as subs. Green and gold run through our veins.

Canyon High School custodian Donnie Kite knows everybody. He’s lived in Santa Clarita since 1950 and used to own a Chevron Station at the corner of Whites Canyon and Soledad until it closed 16 years ago, employing Canyon High students in its 33 years there. To this day, kids will tell him their parents or grandparents knew him from the station.

Although Donnie’s been working at CHS for just under 15 years, he’s made his presence known – which is why some people call him the “Ambassador of Canyon High.”

He gets invited to CHS sporting events by team members, always faithful to root for them. His wife’s name, Kelly Morey, is on the wall on campus for her days as catcher for the softball team (1974). Kelly, Donnie’s sister and brother-in-law all graduated from Canyon, and he feels connected to the Home of the Cowboys. As an employee of the school, he prides himself on “providing customer service by taking care of everybody.”

What he does for the Cowboys
Donnie: I help the kids out, I help the teachers out. My favorite thing is just being there, being helpful to everybody. I enjoy my job, and if you’re not happy in your job you ought not be doing it.

I’m proud to be there – it’s an honor to me. Everybody’s so helpful and the kids are so happy. It’s hard to want to retire when you enjoy being there. If it wasn’t for the people around – students and teachers and staff – I’d probably say goodbye.

All the kids have been well-mannered over the years. The school seems a little more peppy, happy. They’re doing a good job. And they all jump in and help.

What he gets in return
Seven or eight years ago I had a heart attack, and Canyon High School was there for me when I was down. The principal, Bob Messina, and staff came to visit me, and the teachers. The choir all sent me cards, the band sent me cards. It was important to me … you know when you’re really loved.

Before retiring last year, Mary Purdy had taught music for more than 35 years, the last 27 at Canyon High School. Looking back, she said that when she took the job at the helm of the choir department in 1990, football was strong and the morale was low. At the time, the Canyon High School mixed choir totaled only about 35 students, so Mary decided they needed to raise their visibility on campus.

Performing arts center

“I wanted us to be recognized as much as the football team,” Mary said. “We did really well that first year and with that success the kids got excited, so it kept getting bigger and bigger.”
In the early days, she worked closely with the drama teacher, Marilyn Pilkey, whose creativity impressed Mary, especially watching her deal with their extremely limited resources.

“‘Minimal’ isn’t a strong enough word for it,” Mary explained. “Our first concert with Marilyn was a winter concert and the kids did an abridged ‘Christmas Carol.’ Girls with really long hair would bend over and that would be a scene change. The place where we performed was four flat classrooms with dividers and what she did to make that come alive for the drama department was amazing.”

In Mary’s first few years, Canyon performed the musicals “Brigadoon” and “Fiddler on the Roof.”

“The really ambitious part was that Marilyn did ‘Fiddler’ outside in the amphitheater,” Mary said. “It was really, really good. ‘Making do’ with things was her nature.”

Then vs. Now
“When canyon first opened it was a modular campus,” Mary remembered. “That’s why every building has a core. Canyon was kind of a model of this new kind of education in 1968, more like a college campus. … They did away with that, but we still have the core, which is interesting, because it’s hard to not hear the class right next door to you.”

One campus feature surprised Mary when she took the job. “There was a smoking section for the kids out by the football field,” she said. “It was not a secret and it was patrolled; they did it to keep the vandalism in the bathrooms down.”

In the beginning, Mary joined every committee possible so they wouldn’t try to cut her program. She’s witnessed a number of changes in education, but said she’s learned that the pendulum swings in both directions.

Honorable Mentions
Mary Purdy has nice things to say about, virtually, every Canyon principal, but one in particular. “Bob Messina was a fabulous, fabulous principal,” she said. “He had been ASB director, so he knew the whole school. He’d be asked, ‘Does the football program raise the most money?’ And he’d say, ‘No – the choir and the band.’”

The Performing Arts Center
Some say it’s the jewel in Mary’s crown, a project she even stalled her retirement to see. Canyon High School finally built and opened a Performing Arts Center in 2016, and Mary had been in on the planning of it for years. “It was everything we asked for, everything we planned, it was all there,” she said. “It was wonderful – the architects were great.”

Not only did Mary Purdy get to lead her choirs onstage at the new Performing Arts Center, she took a piece of it with her. During construction, Mary took pictures every Friday from the ground up and made a Shutterfly album to always remember how it came to life. Two of the photos are pictured above.

McDonald’s Employees Hold 45-Year Reunion ‘Their kind of place … such a happy place’

| Community | July 26, 2018

If you lived in the San Fernando Valley in the 1970s and spent any time at the “Golden Arches,” you may have ordered your burger and fries from members of an exclusive group of teenagers. And if so, you probably got the best food service of your life.

For a few years between “You deserve a break today” (1971) and “We do it all for you” (1975) there was a team of young people working at the McDonald’s Corbin Village with a work ethic rivaled by members of the military. Under the tutelage of manager Rich Indresano, who some say was “the best we ever worked for,” this group of about a dozen people bonded around a set of ideals that’s lasted almost half a century.

That’s what they celebrated last Saturday at Wolf Creek Brewery in Santa Clarita – a 45th reunion from their days at McDonald’s in Woodland Hills.

It was organized by Russ “Beak” Briley, former executive VP, community relations and audience development at The Signal newspaper. He not only booked the site, sent the invitations, and arranged food and beverages, Briley held a tongue-in-cheek ceremony where he awarded personalized gag gifts to each of his former fellow employees. Memories were not limited to antics on the job, however. They ranged from weekends at Lake Nacimiento to ribbing about the cars they drove (Impala and Vega were mentioned). And their former boss, Rich Indresano, was awarded an official McDonald’s golf bag signed by his former employees.

Beloved by the team, Indresano was more than just a workplace superior. For instance, when Briley was a teen, his mother died and he went to live with a sister in Woodland Hills, escaping an abusive stepfather and coping with social acceptance at a new school.

“I got a job at McDonald’s and everything changed,” he said. “I became great friends with these people and we were inseparable for three years. We would get off work at McDonald’s, go shower, and meet back at work and go out.”

Briley’s new friends helped him overcome a lot of baggage, but it was also the support of Indresano that made a difference.

“Rich, I felt, always knew that I had a rough past and became a surrogate father over those three years, at least in my mind,” Briley explained. “He helped me over a few personal issues, as well as taught me a work ethic while giving us space, knowing we were 18-year-old kids.”

Briley left McDonald’s to work at Magic Mountain for a 35-cent-an-hour raise.

“After two weeks I walked into McDonald’s on a Friday night and Rich was working,” Briley said. “He walked over and without me saying a word, looked me in the eyes and said, ‘You are working tomorrow 12 to 8! Be on time.’”

Many members of the old McDonald’s gang graduated from UCLA, including Al Overholt Marsh, a bacteriology major who became a teacher and retired as an assistant principal. He posted the following comments to his friends following the reunion:

“Incredible, isn’t it, that a few years of our lives at a fast food restaurant begot our coming of age, our outstanding work ethic, our knowledge of a value of a dollar because we had to work an hour for one, our growth as individuals, team players, and future leaders, knowing what a family is outside our own, life-long friends and memories, and even partners for life, ‘til death do you part.”

Several marriages resulted from the ‘70s McDonald’s team, and their occupations were a testament to the drive these teenagers had – both then and now. The group includes two medical doctors, a water sports expert, attorney, VP at Universal Orlando, coal mining management, sales exec, race car driver, auto parts chain owner, SFV real estate broker, a judge, newspaper exec and vice-principal.

Cindy Ulfig of Santa Clarita, a deputy DA for 15 years, was one of the first females hired by McDonald’s. She wasn’t allowed to work after 8 p.m. and, therefore, couldn’t be promoted to manager, so she left after a year.

“You learn to follow rules,” Ulfig said of the combined success of the former McDonald’s employees. “I think a lot of it was because it was customer service, you had to deal with people, get out of your zone, work with others.”

San Francisco attorney Marc Litton caught up with old friends.

Marc Litton, a UCLA grad and an attorney in San Francisco, went to West Africa with the Peace Corps a few years after working at McDonald’s.

“We worked the night shift mostly and it was a crazy, crazy time,” he said of his McDonald’s experience. “It was a company store, as opposed to a franchise, and inspectors could come … all kinds of crazy things happened on the night shift.”

Tom Burnett was promoted to manager, but was equally a member of the clan.

“We all clicked,” he said. “We’d go to Don Breheer’s parents’ house … we’d have ping pong tournaments that would last until three in the morning.”

As for the franchise, Burnett sees a big difference between the McDonald’s then compared to today.

“It’s a total business now,” he said. “Back then – remember the old McDonald’s, the old fishbowls, where everyone was watching you? We all felt that.”

After Reseda High School, Burnett also became a UCLA Bruin, and though he majored in linguistics, he followed his love of cars to become owner of a chain of auto parts stores.

Another unusual piece of history for this former McDonald’s crew is that two of the men – brothers Tim and Mike McNicoll – both became medical doctors.Dr. Tim McNicoll amused his reunion friends by showing up in his McDonald’s uniform shirt.

One didn’t have to be a member of this exclusive “club” to feel the affection between the men and women who attended the reunion. Big smiles and hours of stories said it all. And if any of this special group of McDonald’s veterans have followed their old workplace into its future incarnation, you can probably predict what they’re saying about their evening together:

“I’m lovin’ it!”

Tae Bo Master Classes

| Canyon Country Magazine | July 3, 2018

After an attention-getting appearance by fitness guru Billy Blanks in May, the enthusiasm for Tae Bo is growing – and in the direction of Canyon Country. Angie Eliaszewicz, who recently became a certified instructor, taught a master class alongside Blanks at Hugo’s Gymfitness, introducing the group of men and women to the basics of the martial arts style fitness program. She is now teaching Tae Bo at both Hugo’s on Centre Pointe Pkwy in Santa Clarita, and Be Fit, which is located next to New World Dance in Canyon Country.

The trademarked martial art is a combination of Tae Kwon Do and boxing, which was founded by Blanks in the 1980s, one of the first to launch a culture of total body fitness.

Eliaszewicz is offering “6-week Challenge” sessions, where women will gain an added advantage over a typical workout: encouragement from the instructor.

“I guide them and motivate them daily,” she said. “Lack of motivation makes people quit. I’ve been there and done that – I know how it feels. You need that person to be right next to you saying you can do it.”

You can take the Tae Bo classes individually, at $10 per class. The six-week session is $150, which allows participants three classes a week, bringing the price down to about $8 per workout. The aim is to help women see results, so Eliaszewicz gives dietary coaching as well as fitness technique.

“If you take four weeks or six weeks and you haven’t changed anything, you’ve pretty much wasted your time,” she explained. “When we get weak our fears come out, and we work psychologically through that. Once you pass that firewall of facing your fears you can achieve anything you want.”

The one-hour Tae Bo classes are appropriate for a range of levels. The moves are basic, with an emphasis on technique and repetitive movement.

“Any martial artists – first degree, third degree, fourth degree – will get a good workout, just as someone who’s never done a workout before,” Eliaszewicz said.

Participants should wear regular workout clothing, according to comfort. “We’ll be doing Tae Bo in conjunction with weights to achieve maximum results,” the instructor said. “Once you incorporate strength training with cardio you burn fat at a faster pace.”

Eliaszewicz plans to start the six-week sessions on July 2 and again August 13. Also this year, she is joining Billy Blanks in Florida to create Tae Bo videos, followed by a company trip to South America.

The Tae Bo Fitness 6-Week Challenge schedule is:

Hugo’s: Mondays and Wednesdays at 6:30 p.m. and Saturdays at 10:00 a.m.

Be fit: Fridays at 9:30 a.m. and 7:30 p.m.

Hugo’s Gymfitness is located at 21107 Centre Pointe Pkwy in Santa Clarita; Be Fit is located at 18916 Soledad Canyon Road in Canyon Country.

Free Master Class July 13
Angie Eliaszewicz will lead a Tae Bo Master Class on July 13 free of charge at Be Fit in Canyon Country. The community is invited to attend the class at 7:30 p.m. to experience Tae Bo.

For information about the free master class or the Tae Bo 6-Week Challenge, call 818-967-2629.

Nancy Eckels Inspired by Nature

| Sand Canyon Journal | July 3, 2018

For an artist like Nancy Eckels, whose inspiration comes, largely, from her time spent in nature, it makes sense to live in a place like Sand Canyon. When she and her husband, Don Thorne, began looking for a house, they wanted a bigger piece of property than they could find in the San Fernando Valley.

“I saw a small ad in a newspaper talking about acre-plus lots,” Eckels explained. “We came out to look, and the rest is history.”

They built a house in the canyon and moved into it in August of 1993, about six months before the 6.7-magnitude Northridge earthquake.

“While it was happening we thought, ‘Oh no, our brand new house is going to come down around us,’ but it, and we, survived in good shape,” she said.

That was good news in and of itself, and ever since, the couple has been happy with their decision. “We love Sand Canyon,” Eckels said. “It’s quiet and friendly.”

An artist who does mostly abstract painting and mixed media, Eckels has also dabbled in sculpture, but not often, due to a lack of time. Two decades ago, she left a 25-year career in television to pursue art full-time. She joined the Santa Clarita Artists Association, a group where she’s met and made friends with many fellow artists. Eckels will present a demonstration at the non-profit organization’s meeting next month.

The natural beauty that influences much of her work began to make its mark long ago.

“My Dad took all of us to many national parks when my sister and I were young,” Eckels said. “I’m sure the beauty of nature that I learned to appreciate with him is part of my inspiration.”

Color is important in Eckels’ artwork. “Sometimes just seeing a combination of colors will inspire a painting,” she explained. “I recently told someone at the gym that I was going to do a painting based on the colors of his shoes and socks. He probably thought I was a little strange.”
The colors of the ocean are a part of her work as well. She recently created several paintings based on tropical waters.

Her career in television production included many jobs and titles from receptionist and producer’s assistant to game show writer and associate director. Her final TV job was director on the daytime drama “The Bold and The Beautiful.”

It was that creative side that helped Eckels through a diagnosis of breast cancer five years ago. She said it was painting, her passion for poker, and her husband, Don, who got her through treatment.

“During my initial diagnosis, the Sheila Veloz Breast Center was very caring and helpful as far as getting me to the right people for my treatment. This included Dr. Gregory Senofsky, my surgeon,” said Eckels, who was also pleased with her oncologist, Dr. John Barstis, who has since retired. “My treatment has been through UCLA Oncology out here in Santa Clarita. My current doctor, who is supervising my ongoing treatment, is Dr. Rena Callahan, who I also like very much.”

Nancy plays once a week in the SCV Poker League, which she calls “a friendly group.” (SCVPoker.com)

“I also like playing a big tournament in Las Vegas every now and then,” she added.

Nancy Eckels pays it forward by offering guidance to others, including her work with the Santa Clarita Artists Association, a group Eckels applauds for staying active and giving members a way to show their creativity. She will demonstrate abstract acrylic painting at next month’s meeting at Barnes & Noble on August 20, and the public is welcome to attend (see below).

Abstract Acrylic Demo at Barnes & Noble

Nancy Eckels will demonstrate acrylic painting at the Aug 20, 2018 meeting of the Santa Clarita Artists Association (SCAA). This event is free, open to the public and meets at 6:30 p.m. at Barnes & Noble, 23630 Valencia Blvd. in Santa Clarita.

Since her work is totally abstract, it comes entirely from Eckels’ head, heart, and imagination, according to a release by the SCAA. Anything that has contributed to her sense of color, texture and composition becomes the basis of what eventually comes from her hands and brushes.

“A creative block is overcome only by working on your art, not sitting on a couch waiting for inspiration,” Eckels said. “My paintings are a combination of sculpture and painting. I begin with a texture medium, which I sculpt by shaping, carving and manipulating on the canvas. When I apply the texture, I keep in mind a loose composition and try to imagine what it might become. I want to make something new. I’ve often thought that abstract art is the purest form of what people consider a one-of-a-kind art.”

Eckels often experiments with combinations of color, making colors pop against each other, pulling some forward and pushing some back to create depth.

“I love making the texture, color and composition – the ONLY things I need to concentrate on when I create,” she explained. “It’s just so freeing to my imagination.”

For more information about her artwork, visit NancyEckels.com.

To attend the demonstration, arrive early, as there will likely be standing room only by 6:30 p.m. For more information about the event, visit SantaClaritaArtists.org.

PedalFest Summer Series

| Canyon Country Magazine | July 2, 2018

While the high speeds that people take through Sand Canyon are sometimes cause for alarm, there’s a group of people encouraging you to go even faster in Placerita Canyon.

Don’t worry – they aren’t driving on four wheels, just two – and they’re actually on a new track off of Placerita, not on the road.

This year’s “PedalFest Summer Series” is being held at East Walker Ranch on Thursday evenings, engaging nearly 200 bike enthusiasts of all ages and abilities for a friendly competition.

The public is invited to watch or participate in the remaining five race events. It costs $30 to race and competitions are divided into various groups from kids age 6-8 years old to semi-pro adults. The next PedalFest event is Race #06, held on July 26 from 6-9 p.m.

It’s the sixth year that Greg and Gina Flanagan of Saugus are spearheading the racing events.

“There’s definitely a competitive element to the races, but it’s mostly a fun, family-friendly environment,” said Gina Flanagan. “PedalFest has grown and evolved over the years, but we stay true to our grassroots racing.”

Greg Flanagan, who works for an equipment rental company in the film industry, used to race motorcycles professionally. “I grew up riding motorcycles and that led to biking,” he said. “I haven’t ridden a motorcycle in about 2-1/2 years. We just love to ride bikes.”

Between hundreds of racers and spectators, the Grill Maniac and Sweet Beams Ice Cream food trucks stay pretty busy at the event.

Previous Summer Series were held in Castaic and at Central Park, where there were too many activities to safely and effectively hold the races. The move to Placerita Canyon was brewing about a year ago, when City of Santa Clarita officials brought the 180-acre property to the attention of the Flanagans. They began designing a multi-use track there, which was successfully completed because of the help of a group called SCV Trail Users.

“It’s a group of guys who love to build trails,” Greg explained. “They’re amazing. The SCV Trail Users group had organized trail workdays all winter, and they’re still working out there.”

The track is used by walkers, hikers, joggers and mountain bikers – just no motorized forms of transportation … well, sort of.

Literal trailblazers, the Flanagans are open to new ideas, and this year’s races are incorporating a first-time feature: Racers can ride e-bikes.

Electric bikes offer individuals the chance to ride bicycles with a little additional power through a pedal assist. David Brow, CEO of Open Trails E-bikes in Valencia said that Greg Flanagan “is the first to integrate e-mountain bike races with traditional mountain bikes.”

E-bike riders begin on a separate track, going uphill on a fire road an extra two miles, Brow explained. They merge with the other bikers at the top and race them downhill.

“We’re keeping up with them and passing them,” Brow said. “It takes about 45 minutes. Even on an e-bike it’s hard, but it’s faster.”

One of the advantages of electric bikes – whether you’re racing at PedalFest or riding the more than 80 miles of bike path trails in Santa Clarita – is that people who are past their prime (in other words, a little older) can get a workout much more easily. Open Trails E-bikes has rentals for $50 per four hours or $75 for a full day.

PedalFest accommodates e-bikers at half of the 10 Summer Series races.

“My favorite thing about hosting the races is the sense of community and camaraderie between the participants, spectators, vendors and volunteers,” Gina Flanagan said.

August 9 is PedalFest Family Night, where kids age 5 and under get a chance to race, beginning at 5:30 p.m. “We have kids on push bikes, we’ve had a mom push their kid in a stroller,” Greg Flanagan said. “There will be a bounce house, and every kid gets a medal and a little prize.”

The 10th and final PedalFest Summer Series race will be held on August 23, 2018. The next PedalFest race is July 27 from 6-9 p.m. Online registration for $30 closes at 9 p.m. the Wednesday prior to the event. The cost is $35 if you register onsite at the beginning of the race.

“We like to bill it as the race series for people who don’t race,” Greg Flanagan said. “We have a 6- to 8-year-old class and a 9- to 11-year-old class. We have a modified route for them. We have over 20 different classes, with 12- to70-year-olds on the track at the same time.”

The track is located at East Walker Ranch, 16723 Placerita Canyon Road in Santa Clarita. For more information, visit Racepedalfest.com, where you can find the schedule, and even the race results.

Antelope Valley Fair Aug. 17-26 – ‘Holy Cow, We’re 80 Now’

| Canyon Country Magazine | July 1, 2018

If you like to spend some of your summer walking, talking, eating and seeing heartwarming, educational exhibits, it sounds like you’re a frequent visitor to the fair. For 80 years, the Palmdale/Lancaster community has been hosting the Antelope Valley Fair, with many traditions and events that are the same today as they were in 1938 when it first opened.

Its history actually goes back to the 19th century, when the area’s leaders would host a two-day celebration for farmers and ranchers. A Harvest Festival was held in 1931, bringing Hollywood entertainers to the area; then an annual Field Day began in 1934, where locals would compete in friendly contests, including cow milking and hay loading.

The early years of the Antelope Valley Fair required fundraising to buy the 80-acre property where it was originally located, so local ranchers auctioned off bales of hay to the highest bidder. In 2003, the AV Fair was relocated to its current venue at Avenue H in Lancaster. It began as a four-day event, but is now 10 days of carnival rides, livestock exhibits, vendors, concerts and much, much more.

The Fair Association’s mission statement is “to serve as a well managed, safe, multi-purpose, year-round facility which meets the diverse educational and entertainment needs of the residents and families of the Antelope Valley and surrounding communities. The Antelope Valley Fair Association will be innovative in planning and growth while protecting the public’s investment, maintaining sensitivity to our environment and preserving and caring for our agricultural heritage while creating new cultural traditions.”

For more than 30 years, 4-H community leader Shirley Byrne has been involved in educating and encouraging children and teens in the Canyon Coyotes 4-H Club. “We are the only club in this area and have members from Castaic, as well as other cities in the Santa Clarita Valley,” she said. “We also have members from the Palmdale, Lancaster and Leona Valley areas.”

This year there are dozens of local kids showing livestock at the AV Fair in August. With 4-H members showing as many as 20 lambs, eight goats and 22 pigs, plus many others from beef and swine to turkeys and rabbits, there will be plenty of ribbons coming home to Acton, Agua Dulce, Canyon Country and other parts of the surrounding area.

Some students are also participating in cake decorating, arts and crafts, photography – even welding. “I have kids in almost every category in the building this year,” Byrne said.

The building Byrne is referring to is the Van Dam Pavilion, where fair visitors can see exhibits from community members who submit their creative entries, from jam and table settings to miniatures and ceramics.

There is still time for members of the public to enter an exhibit in the competition. Visit the website at AVFair.com for rules, forms and deadlines.

Another building has “Farm and Garden” entries such as honey, floriculture, and bird/bat houses. There are numerous stages with entertainment throughout the 10-day fair as well.

You can see the 4-H members show their large and small livestock during the first few days of the fair. The animals receive vet checks and other clearances and stay in the barn according to a schedule for appearances and auction.

For more information about the Antelope Valley Fair, visit AVFair.com.

Santa Clarita Valley Quilt Guild

| Canyon Country Magazine | June 12, 2018

Your grandmother may have had a sewing circle, or had a group of friends who would bring over fabric squares which they pieced together on a rack.

Santa Clarita has the SCV Quilt Guild.

“Our guild is a fun guild,” says quilter Donna Chipperfield of Agua Dulce, who joined the club in 1991. “Yes, we do a lot of work … but we also go out and have dinner once in a while and anybody is welcome to come.

Almost 30 years ago, a group of quilters created the non-profit Santa Clarita Quilt Guild to share their love of handcrafting, and at the same time, meet needs of others in the community. They pass on their skills to future generations through demonstrations and in working with Girl Scouts earning their Quilting Badge.

The group has contributed three quilts to the City of Santa Clarita, and one hangs in the City Council chambers. The members also adopt families in need, raising money for individuals without resources.

The goal of the SCV Quilt Guild is to serve the community, says Carol Carter, who serves on the community service committee for the club.

“We make quilts for our veterans through Habitat for Humanity,” she says. “Each veteran receives a quilt when they move into their new home.”

The non-profit organization also creates quilts for residents of the VA Hospital in West Los Angeles. They also support The Painted Turtle, a camp for children with special needs and medical issues.

“We donate turtle pillows and small quilts for each child to take home,” Carter says.

The Guide Dogs of America are supported by the non-profit, and the Santa Clarita Senior Center receives original work from the Quilt Guild, including placemats, shawls, wheelchair and lap quilts for seniors.

“We have a good group and we’re all oriented toward doing community service,” Chipperfield says.

Some of the other organizations benefiting from the work of the guild include: American Diabetes Association, Boy Scouts, Brownie Girl Scouts, Canyon Country Library, City of Hope, Henry Mayo Memorial Hospital, Ronald McDonald House, Santa Clarita Food Pantry, SCV Pregnancy Center, SCV Homeless Shelter, SCV Sheriff’s Department, United Cerebral Palsy, and others.

Canyon Country resident Bunny House joined the Quilt Guild after she retired from Union Bank in 2004. Her first quilting project involved matching up the points of triangles.

“It was all challenging, I’ve got to tell you,” she says. “At the time, I hadn’t used my sewing machine in … I can’t even tell you. I had packed it away.”

Like many of the guild’s members, House sewed when she was young. “When my daughter was born … the first two years she was in school I made everything she wore,” she says. “I made clothing for myself, and doll clothes. Before, it was actually more cost-effective than it is now, because fabric is really expensive.”

House says she’s a traditional quilter.

“I’m not a modern quilter,” House says. “I like traditional patterns. I don’t have a favorite pattern, but I do like stars.”

Traditional does not necessarily mean hand-sewn.

“Hand-quilting would not be an option at this point. I can do some hand-sewing, but hand-quilting would be intensive,” House says. “I know we have some members who do hand-quilting.”

Of course, some of the Guild prefer working by hand, one member in particular.

“She doesn’t even own a sewing machine,” Chipperfield says. “Everything is done by hand. And she pumps out some of the most beautiful quilts you have ever seen.”

Chipperfield, a former Quilt Guild president, quilts professionally, finishing people’s quilts for almost two decades now.

“Modern quilting now is quite different,” Chipperfield says. “It used to be quilts were made to be on beds. Now we do it for art. … You used to sit around a frame and you outlined your little squares or triangles. And now you do it by machine and your imagination is the only thing that hinders you.”

Chipperfield’s grandmother started her quilting when she was 9 years old, and she was hooked.

“Anybody who takes up quilting, it will become a passion for them,” she says.

Smithsonian refers to quilting as “fiber arts,” says Chipperfield, who adds that it resembles the work of visual artists.

“All quilts are beautiful,” she says. “It’s kind of like looking at paintings. Some will really jump out at you and others will kind of just intrigue you. With others you’ll say, ‘Hmm … that’s OK.’ Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.”

Santa Clarita Valley Quilt Guild meetings are held the second Thursday of every month from 7-9:30 p.m. at Santa Clarita United Methodist Church, located at 26640 Bouquet Canyon Road. The club gets national and international quilting experts to come and speak, and will typically show examples of their work. Sometimes there’s a workshop, where members can become more knowledgeable quilters.

“If you had any desire to become one, or any sewing background you’d probably enjoy it,” House says. “It’s really gratifying to put a quilt together and see it come together and you can give it to someone who will appreciate it.”

For more information about the organization, visit SCVquiltguild.org.

Santa Clarita Valley Senior Center Meal Delivery

| Sand Canyon Journal | June 11, 2018

The mission of the SCV Senior Center is to promote quality of life for seniors, which the facility does in many ways. On top of classes, adult day programs of all kinds, trips and more, there is a reliable food delivery system.

Tom Hartmann of Sand Canyon has been giving back for a very long time, but when he retired from Lockheed Martin where he was a program director a few years ago, he decided he wanted to do more. While he and his wife, Jackie, have been active in non-profits for years, he decided to go to the next level at the SCV Senior Center.

He literally walked in the front door and asked how he could help.

“They asked me, ‘Can I help you?’ And I said, ‘The better question is How can I help you?’” Hartmann said.

He was directed to the kitchen and they made him a driver.

“The Senior Center has been so welcoming,” he said. “They clearly appreciate the volunteers and they also appreciate the seniors there. It’s just a collegial atmosphere.”

He has two regular routes and delivers mid-day meals two days a week on a regular basis. He takes on a third if they need it.

There are a total of 10 meal delivery routes from the Center. Typically drivers start as back-ups and fill-ins, Hartmann said, and he got a regular route within a few weeks.

“It’s very flexible and easy,” said Hartmann, who has lived in Canyon Country for nearly 30 years. “There’s a range of times you can show up. The routes change a little bit during the day, but for the most part, they’re pretty consistent, so you get to know the people on the route.”

The interaction with people is what makes it worthwhile to Hartmann.

“Nearly all of them are face-to-face contacts,” he said. “Sometimes a person is bed-bound, in which case we’ll go leave it for them.”

On one occasion, Hartmann delivered to a woman who was in distress and needed medical help.

“I try to at least have a short conversation, and nearly all the time that’s very much appreciated,” he said. “A lot of these people spend a lot of time by themselves. We’re advised that we may be the only person they see all day.”

The Senior Center has a kitchen where meals are prepared, and they are usually packed and ready to go, or close to being ready to go, when drivers arrive.

“When they move to a new facility early next year there will be more room in the kitchen to make more meals,” Hartmann said. “I could see the program expanding.”

If you’re interested in becoming a driver, chances are there’s an opportunity.

“You can call or just walk in like I did,” Hartmann said. “They take you out on an orientation drive … then you take a second drive and at that point you see if this is something you want to do. … I know you’ve heard it before, but it’s true – I get more out of it than I put into it.”

To get involved, contact the SCV Senior Center volunteer and recreation coordinator Robin Clough at 661-259-9444.

The Shrinking Life of Bees

| Canyon Country Magazine | June 5, 2018

Bee-lieve it or not, if the number of hives continues to decline, humankind may not survive.

That’s a driving force for Max Morgan, a former member of the military, firefighter and police officer who began a new career as a bee removal specialist.

Last month, a swarm of Africanized bees killed three dogs in Agua Dulce. But while many members of the community were shocked by the local drama, Morgan wasn’t surprised.

“It’s not unusual at all,” he said. “The Africanized bees have killed livestock, pets … humans. They actually crossed the border into Texas, probably in 1999, and they were found in California in 2004, and now they’re pretty much in the Southwest and moving their way north.”

Morgan quoted a statistic where they found that 80-90 percent of wild bees (the kinds not kept by beekeepers) have some degree of “Africanization,” meaning they have DNA from the aggressive African honey bee.

“Some are mildly nasty and some are a public safety hazard,” Morgan said. “It’s evolutionary. They’re starving to death because of a lack of forage.”

To avoid being attacked by them, it’s best to stay away. Morgan said that Africanized bees can sense danger at 50 feet away, and they sense vibration (which agitates all bees) at 100 feet. “A bee can fly 15 miles an hour,” he said. “How fast can you run? They will chase someone for a quarter of a mile.”

The local bee expert responds to calls from clients and speaks to groups about a growing – or shrinking – problem. It is called Colony Collapse Disorder.

“It’s a worldwide phenomenon,” Morgan said. “What happened around 2006 is the agricultural chemical companies came out with new … insecticides – neonicatinoids – which are nicotine-based.”

It is a “systemic insecticide,” according to Morgan, which means that by contrast to other insecticides, which typically last a few days, neonicatinoids are there forever. Bees then gather the contaminated, toxic nectar, according to Morgan, and bring it back to hives, decimating bee populations. He added that most of the Western European countries, including Russia, banned the use of neonicatinoids.

There is also a loss of habitat because farmers are using their land to grow corn for ethanol for cars, he said.

“A few years ago, for the almonds in the Central Valley, they needed 1.6 million bee hives to pollinate. They were literally trucked in by the thousands,” Morgan explained. “But because of the Colony Collapse Disorder, they’re losing colonies. Four years ago there were only 500,000 hives available to pollinate the almond crops.”

Bee-lieve it or not, bees are smart
“People who are aware that bees are dying, they’ll say, ‘How come we’re getting all these bees?’ We have sprinklers, bird baths, pools, water features, and we have landscape plants,” he said. “It’s almost Darwinian. They’re moving into urban areas in their fight to survive.”

Morgan gets called to Sand Canyon, among other parts of the valley. Ranch owners who have water troughs for livestock can draw bees. A lot of the horses will get stung on their faces, such as the nostril area, he said.

“Bees require a lot of water,” he said. “I get several calls a year from people saying, ‘We can’t use our swimming pool.’ I tell them to drain the pool. And sometimes they ask, ‘Can we convert it to saltwater?’ But bees like saltwater even more.”

This hive at Lowes was relocated

Morgan said that when bees find a desirable situation, they remember it. “Bees will put that in their GPS. They’ll fly in a 5-mile radius and find their way back,” he said. “They are highly intelligent.”

Bee-lieve it or not, Max Morgan is a no-kill bee expert
“I’m a moderate environmentalist,” he said. “I recognized six, seven years ago bees were dying, so I became a beekeeper. I wanted to do my part. I thought it was the environmentally responsible thing to do.”

By keeping bees alive, Morgan can fight the numbers dying off.

“Everyone knows they’re critical to our food supply. One out of three foods we eat requires a bee to pollinate it, whether it’s vegetables or fruit,” he said. “It’s also critical to our meat and dairy, because alfalfa requires pollination.”

When bees swarm, there are typically 4,000-6,000 bees and they’re about the size of a football,” the bee expert warned.

One of his most challenging calls involved removing an Africanized hive a few years ago. They attacked him and got into the cab of his truck, so he had to drive home in his beekeeper uniform, Morgan said.

“The best advice I could give people is don’t ignore their bee problem,” Morgan said. “A lot of people say, ‘That’s OK, it’s nature, they’re not bothering anyone.’ I cannot emphasize it enough. They’ve got to deal with it.”

The season for bees is March through September, and a fertile queen bee can lay 1,500-2,000 eggs a day.

“Exponentially, the population is exploding,” he said. “It doubles again and again. You can have a hive with 15,000-40,000 bees and they can become Africanized.”

If they aren’t attended to and they get in the wall of a house it’s complex and expensive to solve, Morgan said.

The beekeeper’s research shows that without bees, humans have only wheat, rice and corn to eat. He reminds people that it was Einstein who allegedly said, “If all the bees were to die, mankind would only have four years to live.”

That projection sounds a little bit ironic, as Morgan’s proposal to help turn the tide is a political one. He said, “It’s all about campaign donations from chemical manufacturers.”

To learn more, you can visit Max Morgan’s business page on Facebook, which is “Have Bees?”

Santa Clarita Valley Rose Society

| Canyon Country Magazine | June 4, 2018

When Cindy and Gary Bernsdorf moved to Canyon Country in 1977, roses were the first thing they planted in the front yard. Since then, when they’ve made changes to their landscaping it often meant making room for more roses.

“My interest in roses goes back to my childhood,” Cindy Bernsdorf said. “My mom had roses as part of her front and back gardens. It just seemed natural to include them in our gardens, too.”

Susan Rinker

Susan Rinker’s interest in roses also took root in her mother’s garden. She remembers her “Peace Roses” as colorful and “Mister Lincoln Roses” as fragrant and velvety red.

When she came to the Santa Clarita Valley, Rinker noticed that some roses don’t grow well in this area.

“There are specific roses that do really well out here, while there are others that don’t,” said Rinker, who moved to Canyon Country 21 years ago. “We bought here because it was semi-rural at the time. Canyon Country still has that small town feel and community spirit.”

The SCV Rose Society is another community Rinker praises. She attended their annual rose shows and about five years ago, she went to the group’s “How to Cut Back Roses” class, which is held in January.

“Everyone is really friendly and knowledgeable,” she said. “There is something for everybody, even if you are just starting out.”

some of the Bernsdorf family’s 50 roses

The Bernsdorfs have been members of the Santa Clarita Valley Rose Society for about 10 years.

“We first became aware of the Rose Society from articles in The Signal inviting the public to visit local rose gardens. One of them was in Canyon Country, not too far from us, so we went,” Cindy said. “It was amazing to see someone’s garden who was really ‘into’ roses. They had so many different kinds and colors, and everyone there was so helpful when we started asking questions.”

Their next visit was to the Rose Show at Hart Park. “Again, we talked to members, and decided to join,” she said.

The 26-year-old local Rose Society has monthly meetings with speakers on subjects related to roses or gardening, including related topics such as pruning, soil, pests, or from experts in the field of landscaping.

“We have often brought questions about growing roses to the many experts who attend,” Cindy said. “The really nice thing is that there are many members who, like us, grow roses for our own pleasure, but don’t go any further than that. However, if you want to grow ‘show quality’ roses and participate in showing them, we have lots of others who can help.”

Some of the club’s members even graft their own roses, and there is a wide range of expertise in the group.

“There is a place for anyone who loves roses, no matter how involved you want to be,” Cindy said. “We have a monthly newsletter with great articles, as well as an award-winning website. You can find information there on almost any question you might have about roses.”

The group’s website, SCVRS.homestead.com, has a calendar of care, with suggestions about what you can do each month to help your roses grow to their highest quality. There are photos of members’ gardens and a list of consulting Rosarians, among much more.

“Of course, we also continue to have the Rose Garden Tours and our Rose Show each year,” Cindy said.

All three of the members support the club by volunteering; for instance, assisting judges at the Rose Show.

The Bernsdorfs don’t show their roses; but they’ve been enjoying them in the yard for 40 years, as well as life in their Canyon Country neighborhood.

“We still have neighbors who were there when we moved in. Our kids grew up together,” she said. “We loved the schools and families we met through PTA, Girl Scouts, and AYSO. … We have some pretty awesome newcomers in our neighborhood as well.”

Rinker was drawn to the area, in part, for the wildlife. “We loved the roadrunners, quail, plover, and a coyote or two,” she said. “Due to the development out here, most of the animals are gone now, but we still love the quietness, the beautiful views, the sunsets and sunrise.”

Vine & Dine Locally

| Canyon Country Magazine | June 1, 2018

If a trip to “wine country” makes you think of a flight to the Bay Area and another couple of hours in the car, you might not be aware of the options in your own backyard. In the last two decades, an American Viticulture Area, or AVA, has been established in the Sierra Pelona Valley, which includes Agua Dulce, Acton and the Antelope Valley.

In other words, the Sierra Pelona Valley is “wine country.”

In 9.7 square miles and 96 acres of commercial vineyards, the official paperwork says the viticulture area lies 30 miles north of the City of Los Angeles, 35 miles east of the Pacific Ocean, and 20 miles southwest of the Mojave Desert.

The Sierra Pelona Valley Vintners Association is the organization partnering grape growers and bottlers with the rest of the community, promoting the production and appreciation of fine food and wines. The natural beauty of the east side of the Santa Clarita Valley has provided what entrepreneurs need in order to grow grapes and build businesses, providing the community with locally-produced wine.

Visitors have opportunities for relaxation and exploring the area through events at Sierra Pelona Valley wineries, including hikes, wine tasting, overnight stays and much more. The largest annual event hosted by the association is the Sierra Pelona Valley Wine Festival held every spring.

For information on how to make the most of your time in Sierra Pelona Valley wine country, you can join the Sierra Pelona Valley Vintners on Facebook or visit the website, SierraPelonaVintners.com.

Reyes Winery Hike & Brunch

Beth Heiserman & Robert Reyes served wine and brunch to hikers.

After purchasing his 16-acre property in Agua Dulce in 2002, Robert Reyes planted grapes and the Reyes Winery got its start. The business produces small amounts of ultra premium wines for family and friends and consists of five popular grape varieties: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, Chardonnay and Muscat. The winery has produced single varietals, blends, a rose, and has created four award-winning dessert wines.

Every month – with the exception of June through August – Reyes Winery hosts a Hike & Brunch event, where attendees get to walk about 7 miles of the Sierra Pelona Mountains.

This writer attended last month’s Hike & Brunch with 40-plus hikers. Residents came from a wide area, from Mary Rodriguez of Santa Clarita to Megan Derrig, a military contractor who lives in Palmdale. The group seemed happy with the views of Agua Dulce at 3,500-feet elevation. The walk was led by the winery owner himself, who said they’ve hosted as many as 65 people at the event. It wasn’t for the faint of heart — it was challenging enough to be fun — but you could choose from easier hiking options as well.

At the end of the hike the group returns to the vineyard for a light and healthy brunch that the winery pairs with award-winning Reyes wines. Sales and marketing director Beth Heiserman gets fresh produce from a local farm, planning her menu around what’s available.

Heiserman’s professsional food background was evident at last month’s event, as the brunch was restaurant-quality. She prepared wine-infused jam made with the 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon and Szechuan pink peppercorns, which went well with the fresh yogurt and her sweet granola, made with local honey. There were rolls, freshly baked breads and a buffet of hot dishes, which were equally filling and unique.

Her handmade cheesecake was like nothing I’ve ever eaten; in a word – delicious.

After brunch, Heiserman takes the hikers on a guided tour of the winery, vineyard and the tasting room, where they see Robert Reyes’ original paintings.

And finally, they finish in the tasting room, where they get to try a few more wines.

You can sign up for the next Hike & Brunch, which will be held in September, at https://squareup.com/store/reyes-winery.

Reyes Winery is located at 10262 Sierra Hwy in Santa Clarita. For information about the winery, call 661-268-1865 or visit Reyeswinery.com.

Agua Dulce Winery Mansion
If you have visiting relatives or you just want to get out of the house, there’s a B&B where your party can experience the peace and quiet of life in a vineyard. The Agua Dulce Winery Mansion is a four-bedroom, four-bathroom, 5,000-square-foot home inside the 100-acre vineyard. You can rent the house and take advantage of nearby restaurants, including Zagat-rated Le Chene French Cuisine, go horseback riding on the Pacific Crest Trail and do some wine-tasting.

You can time your stay to also take part in one of the vineyard’s events. They hold wine barrel tours and tastings on weekends, which are sold out months in advance, but there are a number of other ongoing opportunities to experience life at the winery. Next month there will be a Bingo Party on Sunday, June 3; Wine and Paint on Saturday, June 16; and the Father’s Day 6th Annual Hold ‘Em Poker Classic on Sunday, June 17. The winery has tentatively scheduled a lobster truck for Saturday, June 23.

To inquire about staying in the mansion or attending events, call 661-268-7402. You can also learn more at AguaDulceWinery.com.

Agua Dulce Winery
9640 Sierra Highway 91390
(661) 268-7402


Antelope Valley Winery
42041 20th St. West 93534
(661) 722-0145


Alonso Family Vineyards
We offer our wines
for sale at:
Le Chene French Cuisine
12625 Sierra Highway 91390
(661) 251-4315

Coruce Vineyards Tasting Room
1055 West Ave M #105
(661) 494-8877



Golden Star Vineyards
36043 106th St. East
(661) 713-6660


Harris Wine Biz
(661) 266-9465

High Desert Cellars
3045 90th St. West Suite A 93560
(661) 256-6203



Oasis Vineyards
Stephen Hemmert Vineyards

Pulchella Winery
24261 Main Street 91321
(661) 799-9463

Reyes Winery
10262 Sierra Highway 91390
(661) 268-1865



Wine House Vineyard
(818) 634-5786

Flight or Bite

| Canyon Country Magazine | May 30, 2018

When spending time outdoors this summer, a lack of awareness may come back to bite you. Many of your Canyon Country neighbors have already had rattlesnake sightings, and that number should grow in the next three months, when Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital will likely see the majority of its snake bite patients. And one physician suggests you stay alert to avoid negative encounters with rattlers.

“Have good situational awareness in the outdoors,” said Bud Lawrence MD, medical director of the emergency department. “And know that we aren’t part of their food chain. Be sensitive to that and you can avoid situations.”

Most rattlesnake bite victims simply walk too close to the snake because they fail to see it, Dr. Lawrence said. “Rattlesnakes in general are not aggressive. We’re not their prey. It’s really a second line of defense; it usually shakes its rattle first.”

Henry Mayo typically sees 2-4 snake bite victims per month in the summer, and when a patient comes in doctors are cautious about making the decision to treat the individual with anti-venom CRO FAB.

“Usually the localized reaction from the venom is a lot of swelling and discomfort,” Dr. Lawrence said. “Then there are sometimes other reactions; some people get twitchy, for instance. But the main thing is swelling at the area of the bite.”

Occasionally they see victims of non-envenomations, or “dry bites,” when snakes don’t discharge venom, he said. And they don’t want to use CRO FAB unless the patient definitely needs it.

“One of the big barriers to treating people is the medication takes a while to mix up. It comes in powder form and we have to mix it into a solution,” Dr. Lawrence said. “And it’s extremely expensive, like $2,000 a vial, and it sometimes takes 4-6 vials.”

Mixing the medication in advance would save time, but hospital personnel refrain from doing so, unless a professional, such as a paramedic, is on scene and can describe symptoms.

When it’s determined a person needs the anti-venom, CRO FAB is injected in the veins and infuses over a period of time, while emergency department personnel reevaluate between doses. Most significant bites need multiple vials, Dr. Lawrence said.

While Henry Mayo treats the most rattlesnake bite victims in Los Angeles County, it’s unlikely to run out of the anti-venom medication. “We always keep a par level,” the doctor said. “We are always stocked.”

And if living in rattlesnake country seems like a down side, Dr. Lawrence has a bright side for you.

“In many parts of country there are many types of poisonous snakes,” he said. “Here there’s only one – the rattlesnake.”

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