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Athletes of the Week

| SC Living | March 25, 2017

Ben Fariss

A senior at Valencia High School and pitcher for the Vikings baseball team, last week Ben Fariss went 2-3 at bat and registered 3 RBIs as Valencia beat Saugus 9-7. The win keeps the Vikings perfect in league play, and tied for first in Foothill with West Ranch.

“Ben is an outstanding player and leader for Valencia,” said Michael Killinger, coach of Valencia High School’s baseball team. “He is a pitcher/outfielder and one of the best players in Southern California. Ben has accepted a scholarship offer to attend the University of California, Santa Barbara next year.”

Melanie Abzun 

A freshman center fielder for College of the Canyons’ softball team, Melanie Abzun went 2-for-4 at the plate in the first game of last week’s doubleheader with Riverside City College, posting 5 RBIs in the Cougars’ 14-9 victory on March 18.
The game was first of two in a series against Riverside, the second of which Canyons lost 6-4. This season Melanie is batting .455 and leads the team in: home runs, with 5; RBIs, with 23; and runs, with 24.

“Melanie is doing a great job for us as a leadoff hitter,” said John Wissmath, coach of the COC softball team. “She hustles every play, she just plays 100 percent all the time. She should put 100 percent on the back of her jersey, because that’s how she plays.”

Non-Profit of the Week

| SC Living | March 23, 2017

USC Alumni Help Homeless through Salvation Army 

Members of the USC Alumni Association gathered at The Salvation Army’s Santa Clarita Corps to prepare 100 hygiene kits in an outreach effort to assist local homeless students earlier this month.

“Student homeless population numbers, even at the community college level, are difficult to calculate,” said Alexis Hauk, media manager for The Salvation Army, “but the Corps does provide food relief to more than 400 individuals each month, and is grateful for the added assistance from the Trojan Alumni.”

California State Assemblyman Dante Acosta (R-Santa Clarita) spoke with the volunteers at the event.

The Salvation Army has provided essential social services and spiritual ministry to the people of Southern California continuously since 1887. The Santa Clarita Corps, currently headed by Envoys Laura and Jerry Bloom, is one of The Salvation Army’s most recent “outposts” and provides food assistance, ministry, after school programs and other vital assistance to the people of Santa Clarita. For more information on their work in the community, visit santaclarita.salvationarmy.org.


(Above): David Duncan and Daniel Leary, lead volunteers for the USC team, helped assemble hygiene kits at the Salvation Army Corps in Santa Clarita.

Non Profit of the Week – Corral of Comfort

| SC Living | March 17, 2017

Corral of Comfort is dedicated to rescuing horses from dire situations, including neglect through carelessness, being “discarded” by owners because they can no longer win races, etc. After acquiring these horses, volunteers begin a process of rehabilitation.

“Sadly, sometimes good people just are unable to care for their horses any longer,” says a spokesperson for the organization “Others come to regard their horses as unwanted and they neglect or abandon them like yesterday’s garbage. Many of these horses are sent to slaughter, even though they could live productive lives for many more years. There is something inherently inhumane about calling any horse unfit for life!”

A volunteer washes one of the horses

Not surprisingly, many of the horses that arrive at Corral of Comfort have pressing medical needs and many are underweight. Volunteers bind up their wounds and provide them with nourishing food and lots of tender, loving care. Corral of Comfort then places rehabilitated horses in approved, loving homes.

Another aim of Corral of Comfort is to make the public aware of the plight of horses. The organization’s mission is to nurture empathy for animals and people, young and old.

“As you might expect, it takes a great deal of money to do all Corral of Comfort does for unwanted, neglected, abused or otherwise discarded horses,” a spokesperson says. “We can, in fact, only handle what we have money on-hand to cover (though we go the extra mile in many instances, such as when we find a horse left tied up outside our front gate). As such, donations are greatly appreciated and very much needed.

Goals of the organization are to provide a safe environment, veterinary care, food, farrier services, shelter and a safe place until they are able to be placed in a new home.

Corral of Comfort is not funded by any state or government agency and depends solely on small grants, sponsorship programs and donations from individuals. Blankets and horse tack are always appreciated.

Furthermore, they have no paid employees and are solely run by volunteers and board members. For more information, call (661) 361-9188 or e-mail corralofcomfort@gmail.com.

Non-Profit of the Week: Pets N Suds

| SC Living | March 11, 2017

A Valencia store has a non-profit animal rescue that seeks adoptive families for homeless pets. Pets N Suds is a 501(c)(3) located inside a store by the same name, which is located on McBean Pkwy.

The animal adoption process operates on donations, which have been dangerously low, threatening the life of the non-profit.

“We are having great difficulty paying our rent. Our rescue will suffer if we cannot operate in this location,” said Jennifer Berardini, who owns the store with her husband, John. “We got the space and it took all of our money to build up the space, i.e., floors, ceilings, sprinkler system, walls, air conditioning, our signage, etc., so now we find ourselves in this position of near eviction.”

A GoFundMe account was opened in the hopes that resources will come in to boost the animal rescue’s viability. The link to the account is https://gofundme.com/501rescuepetsnsuds. The group’s goal is to raise $15,000, and Berardini can provide non-profit tax receipts to donors.

“We have saved hundreds of animals,” Berardini said. “We have animals in our care right now that need your help. We want to continue rescuing animals.”

Berardini sees loss of the store location as possibly fatal to the adoption charity.

“We do not want to lose our space,” she said. “We put a lot of time and effort into our organization. Our pet store Pets N Suds needs to keep the rescue mission going. The animals are depending on us.”

The animal rescue organization is in danger of closing due to the high expenses and low volume retail sales of the retail portion of the store.

“Our rescue is in danger of closing due to expenses that we cannot maintain at the moment,” Berardini said. “It was an expensive adventure to move and we need your donations to keep us alive in the Valencia Area.”

The shop owner sees the problem as short-term and solvable.

“Once we are on track, the weather gets warmer and more people know we are here, I know we can survive,” she said. “The animals are counting on us to keep rescuing them.”

Animals accepted into Pets N Suds are rescues only, brought in by community members or, literally, left on the doorstep of the store. All adoption fees are used to pay for animal food and health care (shots,vet visit etc). The store is open Sunday and Monday 11 a.m.-6 p.m. and Tuesday-Saturday 10 a.m.-8 p.m.

Pets N Suds is located at 27736 McBean Pkwy in Valencia. The non-profit’s phone number is 661-263-2424 and the website is www.petsnsuds.com.

Athletes of the Week

| SC Living | March 10, 2017

Kayla Konrad

This Valencia High School senior is still a leading member of the girls’ basketball team. She scored 23 points in the Vikings’ 50-45 win over Canyon in the CIF Southern Section Division 1AA championship round. The win marks the first CIF championship in the program’s history.

“Kayla has been a four-year starter on the varsity team and is having a remarkable senior season for Valencia,” said Jerry Mike, coach of the VHS girls’ basketball team. “She excels at multiple positions and has incredible determination and work habits. She is a great leader and teammate. Kayla will be playing at the University of California, Davis next year.”

Tim Soares

This freshman at The Master’s University plays center for the school’s men’s basketball team. Last week, Tim Soares scored 20 points, and had 12 rebounds and eight blocks in the Mustangs’ 83-68 win over Biola University in the GSAC semifinals. Master’s University moves on to the GSAC championship round against Hope International with the win.

“He is incredibly coachable and works hard every day and you (can) see the fruits of his labor,” said Troy Leaf, assistant coach for The Master’s University men’s basketball team. “He has been the inside presence we needed the past few weeks.”

 

 

 

Non Profit of the Week – Action Family Counseling

| SC Living | March 3, 2017

Moving in the lives of adolescents and teens who need help disabling the grip of substance abuse, Action Family Counseling is a community resource widely known in Santa Clarita. Through parent and teen support groups, interventions and drug testing, the non-profit’s leader Cary Quashen responds to requests by schools, law enforcement and individuals who need experts in handling a variety of challenges caused by substance abuse.

“We are involved in anything we can do to help children or adults,” says Quashen. “We are on call for all the schools, so when kids are in trouble we do interventions.”

Anyone in the community can attend Action’s parent and teen support group, held every Tuesday at 7 p.m. at Canyon High School. At the meetings, adolescents are grouped together for substance abuse education and support from their peers who are practicing sobriety. Struggling parents meet others who are dealing with the same challenges. There are usually about 40-60 kids and adults who attend.

“We empower parents to get back in control,” Quashen says. “We have trained counselors to help teens make better choices. There really aren’t any bad kids, just kids who make really bad decisions. If we have a positive influence on them, everybody wins.”

Using a multidisciplinary team approach to treatment, the non-profit promotes healthy behavioral patterns that apply to school, relationships, family dynamics, social and daily living skills. When it comes to the perception that Santa Clarita is a haven of substance abuse, Quashen has a strong opinion.

“First of all, we have no more drugs in Santa Clarita than any city in the country,” he says. “We do speak more about drugs here and we’re very proactive to fight drug abuse, so we’re very vocal about it.”

Partnering with the community in turning the tide away from chemical dependency, Action Family Counseling seeks to provide the highest quality treatment services, including behavior modification and mental health support.

“One in seven Americans will have a substance abuse disorder,” Quashen says. “The life expectancy in this country just dropped for the first time because of drug abuse.”

It may surprise residents to know the direction chemical dependency is taking in the United States.

“Right now the major explosion we’re having is the use of opioids, and that is not adolescents – that’s adults,” Quashen says. “Today, we’re seeing adults who never had a track record who get hooked on prescription medications.”

Another huge cause for concern, he says, is the current attitude toward marijuana use.

“What’s scaring me is the lack of fear when it comes to marijuana abuse in adolescents,” he says. “People are giving up.”

Some middle and high school teens are actually attending school at Action. There is a sobriety school for kids who need more intervention and simply cannot go back to mainstream schools for the time being. There are also intensive outpatient programs and residential centers.

To support Action Family Counseling, call 800-367-8336 or attend an Action parent and teen support group on a Tuesday night at Canyon High School. For more details, visit Actionfamilycounseling.com.

Hero of the Week – Elizabeth

Elizabeth is a Santa Clarita resident and high school student who has been sober for nine months. She now serves on a steering committee at Action. She became acquainted with Action through the Tide program (Training, Intervention, Drug Education), which is an alternative to suspensions and expulsions.

“She had gotten pot at school and was ‘sentenced’ to the parent/teen group on Tuesday nights,” explains Jayce Patt, youth outreach advocate at Action. “Her mom benefited from what she heard in the other room and Elizabeth was receptive to what she heard in the adolescent room.”

The young teen’s success in the program did not stem from a “love at first sight” attitude.

“At first it was ‘get my mom off my back,’ but nine months later, she’s not ‘sentenced’ to come but she does anyway,” Patt says. “I’m so proud of this girl. She goes above and beyond. She is the leader of the pack.”

Anyone who is sober more than six months at Action can become part of the non-profit organization’s steering committee. They help leaders like Jayce Patt and gain a sense of responsibility. That’s where Elizabeth shines. She nudges fellow steering committee members to step up, such as welcoming new attendees at meetings.

And when it comes to talking with newbies who have a less than cooperative attitude, “she knows exactly what to say to disarm them,” Patt says. “Talk about a star student.”

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Male Athlete of the Week – Josh De Leon

| SC Living, Sports | March 3, 2017

A senior at Saugus High School, Josh De Leon is a game-changing contributor to the Saugus boys’ soccer team. Last week, he scored the only goal in the Centurions’ win over Colony High School in the CIF Southern Section Division 4 quarterfinals. Saugus plays Norwalk in the semifinals on Tuesday.

“Josh De Leon has been an instrumental player for us both last year and this year,” said Seth Groller, coach of the Saugus High School boys’ soccer team. “Last season we made it to the quarterfinals, and this year we have already surpassed that, thanks to his hard work and ability to come up with the big play in big games. His game-winning, golden goal in the quarterfinal game was an example of that.”

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Female Athlete of the Week – Alaina Garcia

| SC Living, Sports | March 3, 2017

A key member of the Canyon High School girls’ basketball team, Alaina Garcia showed her power last week. She scored 21 points and grabbed 11 rebounds as the Cowboys defeated Saint Anthony of Long Beach, 62-58, in the CIF Southern Section Division 1AA semifinals. Canyon will meet Valencia for the fourth time this season in the Finals on Saturday at the Honda Center.

“Alaina is a true competitor that was a key factor not only in this game but our victory over Valencia to share the league title,” said Jessica Haayer, coach of the Canyon High School girls’ basketball team. “She is extremely hard working and is dedicated to her team, her family and to basketball.”

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Non Profit and Hero of the Week

| SC Living | February 23, 2017

The SCV Senior Center has served the Santa Clarita Valley aging population for over 40 years, offering programs and services that promote quality of life for seniors to over 10,000 individuals and their families annually.

The SCV Senior Center is the only Senior Center in Los Angeles County that provides 19 of 21 programs and services listed in the Los Angeles County Senior Center Directory, including Adult Day Program and Respite, Handyworker Program, Congregate and Home Delivered Meals, Information and Resource Referral, Health and Wellness Programs, Caregiver Resources and Support Groups, Lifelong Learning Classes, Transportation, Recreation, Leisure Activities, Fitness and Exercise and more.

The Adult Day Program is the only licensed adult day care program in the Santa Clarita Valley that specializes in the care and activities for adults with Alzheimer’s disease, other types of dementia, post-stroke, Parkinson’s or other conditions requiring assistance and supervision. The SCV Senior Center’s focus is to enhance the lives of participant’s by encouraging independence, while building on their skills, knowledge, strengths and abilities.

The Handyworker Program is designed to provide free minor home repairs to qualified homeowners to improve the safety and habitability of their home. Individuals that qualify for the program are eligible for repairs to their dwelling unit. This program addresses health and safety issues to allow homeowners the ability to continue to live safely in their own homes.

The Congregate and Home Delivered Meals Program provides an opportunity to enhance the daily nutrient intake, nutritional status, social interactions and functionality of older adults. The center’s Congregate Meal sites allow for social interaction with others and promote conversation, camaraderie, support and friendship. The Home Delivered Meal Program allows those that are home bound a nutritious meal while also receiving comfort and interaction from our Home Delivered Meal Driver. For many seniors, the Home Delivered Meal Driver is the only visitor they receive in the day. Giving residents the opportunity to connect with others provides relief from loneliness, social isolation and feelings of depression.

The Support Services Department is the largest component of the SCV Senior Center, offering a wide range of assistance and providing information about available Caregiver support resources and services. They are there to educate groups of current or potential caregivers and provide them with assistance. Care Management offers assistance in the form of access coordination in circumstances where the client is experiencing diminished functioning capacities, personal conditions or other characteristics which require the provision of services by formal service provider or family caregivers. The program is also designed to assist caregivers through the development of a care plan that provides home and community-based support services. These plans are additionally supported through counseling, support groups and workshops that offer are designed to improve decision-making and problem solving skills related to caregiving responsibilities.

The Transportation Program serves individuals who are in need of transportation and have no other resource available. The program offers the comfort they want and the confidence they need when going to a doctor’s appointment, picking up a prescription and going grocery shopping, providing a sense of independence and freedom to their life.

The center’s Health and Wellness Programs provide a safe, supportive and cheerful environment for adults to discover rewarding new hobbies and pleasurable crafts, learn new game skills, bring new adventures and expand horizons, enhancing life-long learning and engagement. The primary focus of the Health and Wellness Program is to promote physical, emotional, social and spiritual wellness in seniors in a relaxed, non-intimidating environment.

The public is invited to join over 250 volunteers a month who support the SCV Senior Center, or just stop by and take a tour.

For more information about the organization, visit their website at www.scv-seniorcenter.org.

The Senior Center is located at 22900 Market Street in Newhall, and can be reached by calling 661-259-9444.

Hero of the Week: Brigitte Travillion

Brigitte Travillion is the Wonder Woman of volunteers performing a multitude of duties to ensure quality of life for seniors. Initially packing meals for the homebound, it wasn’t long before her enthusiasm and skills were noticed in other departments. Urgent help was needed in the home-delivered meal office and when asked if she knew anything about numbers, her response was a surprise: Brigitte was a financial analyst at Northrup Grumman for over 30 years. She brilliantly filled the need and even ran the department during staff vacations.

After packing meals one day, she noticed the fun in the lunchroom and decided she also wanted to be a part of this experience. “I want to be out there where I can talk to people,” says Brigitte. ”I love it and I believe the feeling is reciprocated.”

She also greatly enjoys delivering meals to the homebound and says, “This gives me the opportunity to meet seniors in their home environment and spend a bit of quality time with them. I observe if there are any problems and report to Support Services, should help be needed.”

Brigitte has been an integral member of the Bingo Committee and assists in many capacities to bring this enjoyable event to the community and raise funds for the Senior Center. Guests are always excited to win her beautiful gift baskets as door prizes.

Born in Eunice, Louisiana, Brigitte is the oldest of five siblings. She is married to the “love of her life” and has a beautiful granddaughter and daughter-in-law. Brigitte is passionate about camping and being out in nature.

She derives enormous gratification from helping seniors. “It’s a feeling I can’t describe. I have had professional success, but nothing gives me the sense of pride that I have from volunteering at the SCV Senior Center,” she says. “In 1994 I was diagnosed with an illness and stayed in the hospital for six weeks. It was the seniors who visited me while my family was working. They chatted with me, gave me food, and brought me much comfort. I will never forget what they did for me and now I want to give back to this wonderful age demographic.”

The SCV Senior Center is grateful for the compassionate volunteerism of Brigitte Travillion.

Non-Profit of the Week

| SC Living | February 17, 2017

Soroptimist International of Greater Santa Clarita Valley

Soroptimist International of Greater Santa Clarita Valley (SIGSCV) is a local non-profit organization which falls under the umbrella of global women’s organization Soroptimist International. Soroptimist members volunteer to improve the lives of women and girls through programs leading to social and economic empowerment. Approximately 76,000 Soroptimists in over 120 countries and territories support community-based and global projects benefiting women and girls. The organization is particularly concerned with providing women and girls access to education, as this is the most effective path to self-determination.

The name “Soroptimist” means “best for women,” and that’s what the organization strives to achieve. Soroptimists are women at their best, working to help other women to be their best.

Soroptimist members belong to local clubs, participating in the Dream Programs of Soroptimist, Live Your Dream: Education and Training Awards for Women, and Dream It, Be It: Career Support for Girls. These annual programs aim to assist women and girls in achieving social and economic empowerment. The Dream Programs of Soroptimist ensure that women and girls have access to the education and training they need to reach their full potential and live their dreams. Soroptimist is committed to investing in programs that contribute to a sustainable, measurable change for women and girls.

Soroptimist also sponsors LiveYourDream.org, an online community empowering offline volunteer action. The self-motivated network is made up of people who wish to support women and girls in their quest to lead better lives, while gaining inspiration in their own lives. Members of the free online community work on topics such as women’s economic empowerment, ending violence against women, human trafficking, and more. They also have access to inspirational articles, tips and blogs that can help them live their own personal dreams.

As a local club, SIGSCV raises funds to benefit many local charities in addition to giving funds directly to Soroptimist International to support its mission and programs. Locally, the club has supported organizations such as: Sheila R. Veloz, Circle of Hope, Alzheimer’s Association, SCV Youth Project, Single Mothers Outreach, Domestic Violence Center, Child and Family Center, Carousel Ranch, LARC Ranch, College of the Canyons scholarships, the Women’s Unit at Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital, COC Center for Early Childhood Education, Mothers Fighting for Others, Habitat for Humanity, Celebrating Women – Hirschberg Foundation, and Mending Kids.

The monies raised by SIGSCV have been through two annual fundraisers: The Wine Affair – Sip, Stroll & Savor the Sounds, which takes place every October; and this year’s Runway Show – London’s Calling will take place on April 2, 2017 at 11 a.m. at the Hyatt Regency Valencia.

To purchase tickets, go to www.sigscv.org. And for more information about Soroptimist International of Greater Santa Clarita Valley, contact president Kim Kurowski at 661-803-6506 or email kim_kurowski@hotmail.com.

Non-Profit of the Week: Single Mother’s Outreach

| SC Living | February 10, 2017

Providing hope, support and resources to single parent families is the mission of Single Mothers Outreach in Santa Clarita. The non-profit organization seeks to empower those who are raising children so they have the ability to become self-sustaining.

The free services SMO offers include assistance with legal issues, housing, childcare, employment and nutrition. Any single resident of the greater Santa Clarita Valley with at least one child under the age of 18 are able to gain assistance from SMO. They provide one-on-one case management to all single parents in the program.

The organization provides back-to-school supplies and holiday gifts for families. An annual tea event celebrates the mothers involved in the organization. Also, numerous classes and workshops are offered to the men and women of SMO. Those include:

  • Financial Peace University – in English and Spanish
  • Zonta LifeForward workshops for women
  • Computer program classes
  • Recreational programs
  • English language
  • Spanish language

Anyone contacting the non-profit receives the Single Parent Resource Guide, which offers resources in a variety of areas, from childcare and food to legal and financial assistance.

The website says: “Parenting is too important a responsibility to bear alone, yet all too often single mothers and fathers are forced to do just that. With a mission to ‘empower single parents and their children by providing hope, support, and resources so that families can become self-sustaining and thrive,’ Single Mothers Outreach (SMO) directly helps single parents find jobs, get educated, secure housing, stabilize their children’s emotional states, manage their finances, and help one another.” For more information, visit Singlemothersoutreach.org.

Empowering HeARTs Gala

Single Mothers Outreach is holding the 7th Annual Empowering HeARTs Gala on Saturday, Feb. 11 from 5 – 7:30 p.m. at Savia Community Partners Center in Newhall. The event features women who have shown courage in difficult circumstances. The Gala showcases six honorees and six artists. Local dignitaries, family, friends and the greater SCV community are invited to view the art and read the stories of each of the honorees and learn the Grand Prize and People’s Choice Award winners.

It is an elegant cocktail party where guests enjoy hors d’oeuvres, wine and soft drinks, as well as the featured program. Tickets are $65 and are available at Singlemothersoutreach.org.

 

 

Athletes of the Week

| SC Living | February 10, 2017

Zach Phipps

A senior at Saugus High School and a member of the basketball team, Zach Phipps scored 28 points in the Centurions’ second-half comeback against Golden Valley last Friday. Saugus won 69-57, including 14 points by Zach in the fourth quarter. The win leaves Saugus tied for second with Valencia High School in the Foothill League.

“Zach is a player that has a competitive fire that continues to grow,” said Bill Bedgood, boys’ basketball coach at Saugus High School. “Each season I’ve seen Zach show tremendous improvement in an aspect of his game. This year he improved a great deal as a leader. His leadership and consistency is one of the main reasons we have had a very successful season up to this point.”

Gabriela Sanchez

A sophomore at Canyon High School, Gabriela Sanchez led the girls’ basketball team to victory last week. She scored 13 points and held Valencia’s Kayla Konrad to just 17 points, as the Cowboys upset the Vikings 64-48. The win for Canyon brings them into a tie for first in Foothill with Valencia, and marks the first time Valencia has lost in a Foothill home game since 2013.

“Gabby had a remarkable game on Friday Night on both ends of the court,” said Jessica Haayer, coach of the Canyon High School girls’ varsity basketball team. “She was a defensive force on Konrad and held her to 3 of 10 shooting from the field. She ended the night with 13 points and 7 rebounds, 4 of them being offensive.”

Non-Profit of the Week: Help the Children

| SC Living | February 2, 2017

Helping Local Families Since 2002

By Penni Perrault

I feel privileged to have the opportunity to volunteer for this group at their facility in the Valencia Industrial Center. Help the Children helps local families and individuals receive weekly food, used clothing, Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter dinners, among other things. The organization partners local businesses and volunteers in our valley to provide a “hands up” to those in need.

I volunteer several times a week, to help organize food and fill the shelves for the shoppers. Due to generous donations from grocery stores, restaurants and individuals, there are daily deliveries and pick-ups. There are regular volunteers, as well as students of all ages, drop-ins, veterans, and retired people. Everyone is making a difference in their own way. Recently, they helped a local group with their coat and jacket drive, and received hundreds for those in need. My favorite part of volunteering is helping the families shop for food (Tuesday and Thursday evenings and Saturday mornings) and seeing the families’ happy faces.

There are many ways people can help, including donating food, organizing a food drive, monetary donations, and volunteering your time.

If you would like more information about helping this group helping local families, you can call 661-702-8852 or email michael@helpthechildren.org.

Hero of the Week: Sandra Kassai 

She is a native of the United Kingdom and a new American citizen. Not only that, Sandra Kassai is a volunteer at Help the Children in Santa Clarita.

“Having arrived here (America and Santa Clarita) six years ago, I almost immediately began to do a web search to see what charity (organizations) were out there for me to get involved in,” Kassai said. “I had done charity and volunteer work in the U.K., so I knew how rewarding it is, besides which, it was a great way for me to meet people and get to know more about my new home, America.”

About becoming a citizen of the United States, the Valencia resident said, “I feel even more a part of the fabric of this society now.”

Sandra Kassai

Of the many non-profit groups she considered, Kassai felt a connection to Help the Children.

“It was difficult to choose a charity to volunteer for since they are all so deserving, but having five children of my own and being an ex-elementary school teacher, I particularly feel a great affinity with small children,” she said. “A simple phone call to Help The Children in February 2011 started my six-year-old volunteer journey with that charity.”

She works at the Valencia facility twice a week and she is involved in both accepting and sorting donations received throughout the day. Kassai also serves the clients during one of the three food distribution times.

“I thoroughly enjoy working there,” she said. “Many of my co-volunteers are like family members to me, some of whom have worked there much longer than I have and for more hours per week. I enjoy the interaction with my co-workers and it especially pleases me if I am able to be of some small service to the clients. Even a simple act of greeting the clients with a smile and by name when they arrive at the warehouse affords them dignity, helps them to feel a sense of belonging and is a source of pleasure for them, which in turn, pleases me. Therefore, I believe I am, selfishly, the main beneficiary from my relationships and experiences when I volunteer.”

Athletes of the Week

| SC Living | February 2, 2017

Timothy Soares

A freshman at The Master’s University, Timothy Soares led the school’s basketball team to a 79-65 win over William Jessup last week. He scored 15 points, grabbed 13 rebounds, and recorded two blocks in the game. TMU now has an overall record of 17-3 and a GSAC record of 6-3.

“Tim has been improving all year,” said Troy Leaf, assistant basketball coach at The Master’s University. “He is incredibly coachable, works hard every day, and you are starting to see the fruits of his labor. He has been the inside presence we needed the past few weeks.”

Kayla Konrad

A senior at Valencia High School, Kayla Konrad has, once again, led the Valencia High School girls’ basketball team to victory. Last week, she scored 35 points, setting a new record for points scored in a game in the Vikings’ 72-15 win over West Ranch. Valencia has a perfect 6-0 record in the Foothill League.

“Kayla is having a remarkable senior season for Valencia,” said Valencia High School girls’ basketball coach Jerry Mike. “She has earned all tournament honors … this year. Kayla will be playing at the University of California, Davis next year.”

Non Profit of the Week – Zonta Club of SCV

| SC Living | January 27, 2017

Zonta Club of SCV is part of a world-wide organization dedicated to improving the lives of women and girls, locally and around the world. The local club is proud that former club president Dianne Curtis is a past president of the Zonta International organization. A current club member, Sharon Langenbeck, is currently an international vice president and a potential international president for a future biennium. Langenbeck is a two-time recipient of Zonta International’s Amelia Earhart Fellowship, a fund which supports women studying for leadership in the aeronautics and space disciplines.

Zonta’s local projects include LifeForward workshops, a series of free workshops for local women to encourage them to be the powerful women they were meant to be. The group has a Girls’ Robotics program in conjunction with the SCV Boys & Girls Club, which encourages teen and pre-teen girls to take an interest in the science, mathematics, engineering and technology fields. The non-profit also contributes through Community Service Grants, which go to local organizations to support their own projects devoted to improving the lives of women and girls. The club awards Women in Business scholarships to women pursuing advanced degrees in the business field, and Young Women in Public Affairs scholarships to young women attending local high schools or colleges who have shown outstanding leadership in public affairs and are likely to enter careers in that field.

In honor of former Zontian Virginia Wrage, the club offers grants to mature women who are facing a major change in life and need support to gain their independence. The club also has organized and trained a team of domestic violence advocates who can help write temporary retraining order requests and offer support to women who are facing the specter of domestic violence. Club members staffed a traveling Red Dress display last month commemorating the seven local women who have died because of domestic violence in recent years.

The local club’s two major fundraisers include the annual Tribute to Women dinner, which celebrates a successful local woman who is a leader in her field; and LUNAFEST, a women’s short film festival featuring films by, for and about women. Zonta also sponsors the annual Women in Service Celebration, which honors women who are nominated by other local non-profits as outstanding volunteers who are making an impact on women’s lives through their volunteer leadership. The top nominee receives the Carmen Sarro Award, which salutes longtime community volunteer and Zonta member, the late Carmen Sarro.

Zonta Club of SCV currently is approaching the 70-member mark and is growing rapidly. Meetings are held the second Wednesday of each month at the Embassy Suites in Valencia. Further information on the club, projects and its membership requirements is available at www.scvzonta.org.

Grey Days: It’s Only Temporary

| SC Living | January 25, 2017

By Derra Grey

That moment when you realize you have stepped out of the life you knew of bright-eyed and happy faced kids, to a life with aloof and moody teenagers.

It feels like I just woke up one day and bam! My excited little ones who used to throw their arms around me, giggling into my ear now stare at me as if I have two heads, or worse, no head at all, as I am unable to finish a sentence without an exaggerated eye roll or resounding ugh.

I have begun to liken my teens to aliens, ones with a greenish hue and large, vacant eyes that stare at me as though they have never seen anything like me before. And, of course, they don’t speak my language, therefore incapable of understanding anything I say.

On this particular morning, when I was finally able to get my kids up for school, my daughter was soon frantically searching for her homework and my son was storming through the house blaming his sister for losing one of his books. The chaos continued when she couldn’t find her glasses and he was upset because I hadn’t washed his favorite shirt. When we finally pulled up to the school, the tardy bell was ringing and my kids told me it was my fault they were late because I didn’t get them up in time.

As I stood at the checkout at the grocery store, the cashier asked me how my morning was going. Normally, I would have said, “good,” or even “great,” but seeing as how I was feeling a little vulnerable, I didn’t hold back.

I rambled on about how my kids had turned into teenagers and I had no clue what to do anymore.

She chuckled and told me about how she had raised a girl and two boys and that the teenage years were definitely the toughest.
“I can promise you it’s only temporary. They will come back to you.” And then she winked at me.

“Look, honey.” An elderly woman who had been standing behind me was now patting my arm. “Just keep lovin’ ‘em an’ showin’ ‘em what’s right. Oh, and a little out smartin’ ‘em now and then helps too.”

“Sure does.” The cashier chuckled. I thanked them both and found myself smiling as I left the store.

As I was making dinner that night, my daughter came into the kitchen and peeked into the pot filled with stew.

“I don’t like stew anymore,” she said. “Can you make me something else?”

“If you don’t want to eat what I have made you, you are welcome to cook whatever you would like,” I responded.

My daughter stared at me for a long, drawn out moment before she spoke.”I’ll eat the stew. Need me to set the table?”

“That would be nice. Thank you,” I said with a smile.

As I stirred the pot, I realized I am ready to take on this new phase of my life.
After all, it’s only temporary.

derragrey@gmail.com

Hero of the Week: Joe Cocker

| SC Living | January 24, 2017

Joe Cocker, a favorite at St. Bonnie’s Sanctuary, is an eight-year-old cocker spaniel, golden retriever mix. He is an incredibly loving dog who had been rescued by Lange Foundation in 2009. Before the non-profit group found him in the Los Angeles County shelter system, Joe starred in a few pet commercials, showing off his handsome self, but for some reason, they decided to give him up. Playing fetch in the yard with a tennis ball is his favorite thing to do in the world. Though getting him to drop the ball is another matter entirely, all Joe wants you to do is throw it for him over and over again. Joe is a very active dog who adores walks, would love to go for long runs, and hikes just might suit him best. If you’re active and are willing to take the risk of getting your heart stolen, you should meet Joe. He’s in his prime and has been at the Sanctuary way too long.

Joe does have a few requests that will have to be met in his new home. For instance, he is very driven toward chasing prey, so he can’t be around cats, birds, or any other small animals. He is also possessive of his toys, and should not be around other dogs when toys are around. He is fine on walks, or in public places, but not in a home or in a dog park. Joe is a strong dog who needs tons of love and attention from someone who knows how to handle his large personality, so older kids would be preferable.

To contact St. Bonnie’s Sanctuary to set up a meet and greet, either call 661-251-5590 or email st.bonnies@gmail.com. Further information about St. Bonnie’s or the adoption process can be found at langefoundation.com.

Non-Profit of the Week: St. Bonnie’s Sanctuary/Lange Foundation

| SC Living | January 23, 2017

In 2007, through a generous bequest, Lange Foundation purchased a 4.5-acre Sand Canyon ranch property in Canyon Country. In mid-2010, the first of what the non-profit organization hopes will be many kennels, was completed. It has 23 indoor/outdoor dog runs, a large cat room with a fully enclosed cat play area, and plenty of outdoor space for the horses. The kennel is equipped with all modern animal care amenities and was given the top rating by Los Angeles Animal Care and Control.

The dogs, cats and horses that are rescued by the Lange Foundation from various shelters throughout Southern California come to St. Bonnie’s in all sizes, ages and conditions. Staff members and volunteers work daily to rehabilitate and care for each and every animal that is at St. Bonnie’s Sanctuary until they are ready to go to their forever homes.

St. Bonnie’s Sanctuary is open seven days a week from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. by appointment only. To schedule an appointment, call 661-251-5590 or email St.bonnies@gmail.com. All the adoptable animals and further information about the foundation can be viewed on the Lange Foundation website, langefoundation.org.

Non Profit of the Week – Friends of Santa Clarita Library

| SC Living | January 13, 2017

An active group of local citizens committed to the success of local booklovers, The Friends of Santa Clarita Library was started in early 2011, and since that time the group has supported a number of library projects, including the Summer Reading Program, author events, programs and classes that benefit children, teens and adults. The three branches supported by The Friends of Santa Clarita Library include: Old Town Newhall Library, Jo Anne Darcy Canyon Country Library, and Valencia Public Library.

All events are open to the public, as well as to library members. The high-tech Maker Space project at Old Town Newhall Library was supported, in part, by the organization. The Friends support the library through advocacy, volunteer service and supplemental funding. The organization raises funds through the sale of gently used books at all three branches, periodic bag sales and silent auctions. Book donations are always welcome. If you are a literacy advocate and enjoy seeing your efforts support learning, contact library staff members to volunteer or to become a board member. Members from the business community are invited to join. For more information about the organization, email friends@santa-claritalibrary.com.

Antique Appraisal Event

The Friends of Santa Clarita Library is hosting its 4th Annual Antique Appraisal Day next month. Five professional appraisers will be onsite to offer feedback to visitors who bring in antique pieces for informal appraisal. One professional specializes in oriental art, one in watches and one in fine arts, such as paintings. All appraisers are also qualified to do general appraisals, but fine jewelry cannot be appraised, nor can furniture.

The Antique Appraisal Day will be held at the Old Town Newhall Library from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. on February 11, 2017. Cost is $8 for one item and $25 for four items. The limit is four appraisals per person. Old Town Newhall Library is located at 24500 Main Street in Newhall. You may reach library staff by calling (661) 259-0750.

Celebration of Local Authors Event

The public is invited to the 4th annual Celebration of Local Authors event on Jan. 14 at the Santa Clarita Public Library in Newhall.

The free event sponsored by the Friends of Santa Clarita Public Library will feature about 50 local authors from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., including writers Mary Baxter (The Brightest Star), Jerry Danielsen (Background Noise), and C. Lee Miller (Single-yes! Lonely-No!). There will be book signings, moderated discussion panels, and opportunities to meet with the authors.

The writing genres range from young adult, children’s, self-help and spirituality, romance, non-fiction, poetry/short stories, mystery and fiction.

For more information about the Celebration of Local Authors event, visit SantaClaritaFOL.com or email the Friends of the Santa Clarita Public Library at friends@santaclaritalibrary.com.

Non-Profit of the Week: Friends of Castaic Lake

| SC Living | January 7, 2017

Since 1983, a group of dedicated volunteers has been responsible for much of how Castaic Lake Recreation Area is utilized and perceived by the community. The Friends of Castaic Lake is a non-profit group hosting events for families in the area, as well as spearheading maintenance projects and raising necessary funds. Their mission is to support and enhance the operation of Castaic Lake, which is the largest regional park in the County of Los Angeles.

One of the goals of the group is to raise awareness about recreation among local children.

“We put on the Fishin’ and Fun for Kids Day the first Saturday of May, C.A.S.T. event (Casting a Special Thrill), the Lighted Boat Parade, Santa Float, and we put on many night fishing tournaments,” said Clay Friedman, president of the Friends of Castaic Lake. “We also do a lot of work around the lake to help beautify it.”

The group’s angler events include moonlight fishing, float tube tournaments and moonlight float tube fishing. One of the little-known facts about Castaic lake is that many state, national, and even world record fish have been caught there. It is the largest state water project reservoir in Southern California, containing more than 11,200 acres of parkland and open space habitat.

Park gates are open from sunrise to sunset, and admission to the park ends an hour before it closes. It is closed Christmas Day, but open every other day of the year for such activities as hiking, horseback riding, jet-skiing, camping and sailing.

Lifeguards are hired by L.A. County to handle emergencies and maintain operation of Castaic Lake facilities. And for needs that go beyond the scope of employees, the community has the Friends of Castaic Lake volunteers, who continue to make an impact on the recreation area through every means available.

For more information, visit http://castaiclake.com/.

 

Hero of the Week: Dave Hill 

For several years, the Friends of Castaic Lake organization has benefited from the labor of a special volunteer. “Dave Hill is always the first to volunteer for all events,” said Clay Friedman, president of the Friends of Castaic Lake. “He cooks when needed and cleans up, and he trailers the BBQ. Dave sells firewood that he splits for the group. When we need him, he is always there at a split second.”

The Friends of Castaic Lake says thank you, Dave Hill!

Male Athlete of the Week: Garret Mike

| SC Living | January 6, 2017

A sophomore at College of the Canyons, Garret Mike is a standout guard for the Cougars basketball team. In the tourney’s first game, Mike recorded 25 points, 11 rebounds, four assists and two steals in a 110-106 double overtime victory vs. Orange Coast College.

“He turned in a brilliant two-game performance last week, helping COC win the 27th Annual Cougar Holiday Classic while also earning All-Tournament Team honors in the process,” said Howard Fisher, COC men’s basketball coach.

The following night, Mike was at it again finishing with 15 points, eight rebounds and two steals to help Canyons pick up an 86-76 win over Barstow and clinch the tourney championship.

Female Athlete of the Week: Taylor Moorehead

| SC Living | January 5, 2017

A team leader on the William S. Hart High School girls’ soccer team, Taylor Moorehead scored a goal and registered an assist in the Indians’ 3-1 win over Liberty High School in the championship round of the Hart Soccer Showcase.

“Taylor Moorehead was instrumental in Hart’s win over Liberty from Bakersfield in the final with a goal and an assist,” said Guilherme Mitrovitch, Hart High School girls’ soccer coach. “Taylor has proved to be an offensive treat for Hart since her freshman year. Now, as a junior, she has 8 goals and 5 assists total so far this season.”

Photo courtesy of The Signal

Giving the Best

| Community, SC Living | December 22, 2016

by Kirra Sutton

This morning I sat the kids down and we read Philippians 2:3-4 together on our living room floor. Ellie mostly listened and Oliver was totally checked out.  My life right now. 
“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.”

I’ve been trying to talk to them a lot lately about the needs of others, because honestly – since moving out of the city – it’s so hard to see the needs of others.  Yes, there are needs here in the nice suburbs – but it’s really hard for you to see them on the surface.  Really hard. In our last apartment, we lived across the street from a Catholic charity where every day at 4 p.m. men and women rushed to line up for a hot meal. It was like a stampede of sorts and Ellie would watch out our windows and ask me: “What’s going on Mommy?” 

The needs of others are unavoidable in the city. You are confronted with homelessness and hunger. You smell need in the stench of someone who hasn’t showered in weeks who sits next to you on the bus.  You are snapped out of your own reality into that of those who are hungry, who are cold, who are sick, who are lonely.

I need that reality check daily.

Because one of my biggest temptations in life is to think I need more.  I need more clothes. I need more stuff for my home. I need to have more educational, fun, funky toys for my kids. We need more books.  More this. More that.  I need, need, need.

Materialism runs so deep down in my veins it’s scary how hard it is to eradicate it. But God is working on me. He started years ago chipping away at my materialism and He’s not finished with me yet.

I’ve started sharing little bits of what’s going on in Aleppo with the kids the last few weeks. They know there are little kids there that are hungry. Some have lost their mommy and their daddy. They need warm clothes. And safety. They know there is fighting and sad things happening. We’ve been praying a lot about it together, but I want them to see that as we pray we also do.

We talked about how we could help and Ellie girl just nearly broke my heart.

It was so simple in her mind. We go and give them food. We let them come stay here. We can give them this and that (she’s running around our living room in rushed excitement and before I know it she’s giving everything we own away). I’m thinking, “Hold on, girlie.”

I talked to her about how we could go through our closets and bring clothes we don’t need to a refugee shelter that helps people who come from cities like Aleppo. Immediately she’s running upstairs telling me she’s going to give her yellow dress. I hear myself saying, “Wait, hold on!”

This yellow dress means everything to this girl. It’s her favorite dress and she asks for it daily. When I close my eyes and picture my Ellie – I picture her in this dress.

She sensed my hesitation and said on the stairs, “Oh, please mom, I want to give it to them. A little girl could feel so pretty in it and twirl in it!”

Putting me in my place, that one. Because here I was – envisioning us choosing the clothes I’m not a big fan of.  The stuff she’s outgrown. Stuff I didn’t spend too much money on. Stuff I had duplicates of. Not her yellow dress. It’s her only one. It’s so special.

But not her.

She went directly to her “best” and wanted to give it away.

How often I give out of my abundance and safety zone. I rarely give to the point where I have to go without. And isn’t that biblical giving? Sacrificing. Giving something up that is of great value to you? I’ve been thinking about it all morning. Just her joy in the sheer idea of giving something she loves to someone else. I’m so proud of her and I’m so thankful that God is teaching me through her how to love. I’m not good at going without in order for someone else to gain. And that is an issue with me. I do not want to continue on that way – but I am so addicted to comfort. Praise God, He is in the work of refining and changing His people to bear more of His likeness.  And praise God He did not withhold HIS best and gave us Christ!

Non Profit of the Week – SRD Straightening Reins

| SC Living | December 22, 2016

Santa Clarita is home to an equestrian non-profit group that does a lot more than just ride around the ring. Deborah Rocha, like the organization she founded, rides like the wind, always forward – which is a good thing – because the needs she meets are growing at a fast rate of speed.

Straightening Reins is a Santa Clarita-based nonprofit providing equine-assisted learning and interactive therapies to at-risk youth and their families, which organization officials call the building blocks to “deal with life on life’s terms.”

Behavioral, educational and community outreach services are available to youth and their families in Los Angeles County and the group actively addresses behavior and emotional problems, substance abuse, violence, child abuse and communication issues.

By working with teens on a ranch in San Francisquito Canyon, Straightening Reins staff sees the benefits grow exponentially, enabling the students to reach out to classmates and share the skills they are learning.

“I see those kids grow and find they have a value. They are going to share that with someone else,” Rocha says. “The high school program is focused on developing that emotional intelligence and understanding. We’re developing those ambassadors of concern for other people, so when they see someone who’s on the outside and not feeling like they fit in, they can invite them and say, ‘Hey, we’re going to study in the library – come join me.’ They can make a connection.”

On middle school campuses Straightening Reins has a program, which is sponsored by Jersey Mike’s, benefiting high-risk and special needs students. Rocha addresses such challenges as their reticence to accept change and uncertainty, adding that making connections on the ranch can be carried over into school relationships.

“They have a situation where they have an opportunity to be a leader,” Rocha says. “These kids are trying to build their confidence, finding their voice. Then they start to develop that confidence, they become more sure, and more willing to take a risk in a controlled, guided area.”

The Straightening Reins ranch crew program allows teens to contribute to the non-profit, feeding chickens and goats, as well as taking opportunities to learn how to ride horses. When available, a trainer teaches the kids to ride. Also, marriage and family therapist Vernon Wendell volunteers his services, counseling with participants and their families.

The staff helps young people “put words to circumstances,” Rocha says, “to be more responsible and look at where they’re going.”

And the calls for help by Rocha’s program keep coming. They continue to grow the ranch crew program, where participants can go on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays after school and Saturday mornings. Straightening Reins serves about 110-170 youth per month and can have dozens show up at the ranch on a Saturday morning. There are also freshman and sophomores from College of the Canyons who are part of the ranch crew at the non-profit.
In addition to operating on donations, Straightening Reins is sometimes chosen to receive the benefits of fundraising by others. One of those is the 5th Annual 2017 SCV Charity Chili Cook-off, at Wolf Creek Brewery in Valencia on Thursday, March 23 at 6 p.m.

“We’re super excited about being chosen for the Chili Cookoff, being one of the non-profits that will benefit from that event,” Rocha said. “We continue to look out there and see where we can find donations.”

Straightening Reins doesn’t just circle the wagons. The organization is open to an increasing number of teens who are experiencing hardship, pain and addiction.

While the program is dark over the holidays, participants will be back on the ranch in January.

For more information about Straightening Reins, go to www.srdstraighteningreins.org or call 661-803-1641 or 661-263-9371.

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