New Book on Canyon Country

| Articles, SC Women, Spotlight News | July 8, 2013

Our own little borough of SCV, Canyon Country, is featured in a new book, the latest in Arcadia Publishing’s “Images of America” series. Written by Santa Clarita Women Magazine editor, Martha Michael, the book is filled with historical photos from favorite Canyon Country restaurants, residences and school buildings. Read about its role as a crossroads, from the earliest days of the Tataviam people to the latest developments in the community’s growth and expansion.

Michael’s book, “Canyon Country,” may be purchased at The Living Room Emporium, 27261 Camp Plenty Road in Canyon Country. Or you may call (661) 505-5244.

Miss Santa Clarita Valley Scholarship Pageants

| Articles, SC Women | July 8, 2013

One of many non-profits supported by Jennifer Gerard, featured on this month’s cover of Santa Clarita Women Magazine, the Miss SCV Pageants Program creates opportunities for local females like no other entity. Its obvious strong point is in providing a venue for girls, young ladies and women to showcase their thoughts and talents in a scholarship contest on stage, where the community can enjoy it as well.

“It is my privilege to have worked with some of the finest young women of this community. They are important people, full of ideas, hope, leadership and compassion for others,” says Miss SCV Scholarship Program Director Mardi Rivetti, on the organization’s website.

The Miss SCV Pageants website offers clarity about the nature of this multi-tiered contest, which is neither connected to the Miss America nor the Miss USA/Universe circuit. The site says: “This program allows young women to meet other people in her community and introduces her to the spirit of volunteer service. The speech gives her an opportunity to share with others the nature of the sponsor’s business as she develops confidence in front of an audience. The fitness wear inspires her to be physically fit and the walk down the runway in her formal gown displays her confidence, poise and beauty. The personal interview with the judges allows her to speak about her achievements and aspirations. The famous pop question allows the judges to witness maturity, intelligence and sincerity.”

In addition to Jennifer Gerard of Whitening Lightning, the sponsor list covers almost every arena of business imaginable. Sponsors include dentists, financial groups, attorneys, business owners, hair stylists, wellness companies, restaurants – the list is very sizable. Almost as long is the list of non-profits that benefit from the time and attention given to them by pageant winners as they “pay it forward” with community service. The organizations served by the SCV Pageant winners include the SCV Domestic Violence Center, Special Olympics, SCV Food Pantry, the Chamber of Commerce and many, many more. For more information about the SCV Scholarship Pageant Program, visit www.missscvpageants.com.

Jen Gerard

| Articles, SC Women | July 8, 2013

By Martha Michael

Jen with her boyfriend Solomon

Sometimes a person has an idea that just takes off with lightning speed. That’s how it was for Jennifer Gerard of Valencia.

“Whitening Lightning started in 2010 as a mobile teeth whitening service,” Gerard explained. “In late 2010, we launched our product line and quickly began distributing in more than 100 countries. I started the business with $3,000 and in just about 12 months, we had already sold $1.2 million.”

What Gerard perfected was a whitening “pen” that can be used at home. The “Whitening Lightning Super Booster Teeth Whitening Pen” is the company’s flagship product offering a more convenient system for professional tooth whitening.

“Our whitening pens and professional home kit allow users to whiten their teeth and get the results they want when they want,” claims the company website. “No hassle, no messy trays, and no sensitivity! Now available in over 100 countries, Whitening Lightning has garnered more attention than ever imagined and shows no sign of slowing down.”

Jen and Daniel Goddard of Young and the Restless

This relatively new product is popular with the Hollywood celebrity crowd. “We provide our whitening for both “Dancing With the Stars” and “The Academy of Country Music Awards,” said Gerard. “We are going into our third year participating in Emmy and Oscar events. We are working on several television projects with our celebrity spokespeople. This is very exciting!”

For 20 years, Gerard was a sales and finance manager for local car dealerships, but found it increasingly difficult to deal with the negativity she felt in her chosen career. A friend suggested a teeth whitening business, so she gave it a try.

“I am convinced that this business is all God’s doing,” said Gerard, an active member of Sylmar Christian Fellowship Church. “In my spare time, I coach other entrepreneurs, kind of as a ministry. I help develop ideas and keep them on track.”

Gerard is vocal about her devotion to her faith. “I love helping people at my church, both through the church and on an individual basis,” she said. “I love to see devoted Christians rewarded for their diligence and faith in God. For instance, I recently purchased vehicles for two families from our congregation.”

Jen (right) with friend and fellow entrepreneur Jacki Curcio

Gerard is also actively supporting several local non-profit organizations. Her love of animals connected her with Mardi Rivetti’s “Rescues on the Runway.” Also through Rivetti, Whitening Lightning became a title sponsor of the Miss SCV Pageants.

This summer, the business is a title sponsor for the Old Town Newhall Car Show, and Comics for the Cause, a fundraiser for SCV Youth Project. “We also donated a celebrity Emmy experience for Taste of the Town,” said Gerard.

In addition to the aforementioned non-profits, Gerard is passionate about working with and helping the Domestic Violence Center and Circle of Hope. “Basically, any group supporting SCV – I am on board to help,” she said. “I love this community and, after living here for 34 years, would not live anywhere else. I feel so blessed by the enormous success of my business today and in the future, and it is my privilege to give back to SCV.”

Gerard is a single woman, with “an amazing” boyfriend named Solomon. They live in Westridge with a black lab, a South African Boerboel and three snakes.

Gerard summed up some of the perks of living in the SCV: “I love the clean family environment and convenience of having everything we need right here in the valley without the traffic.”

Tracy Hauser

| SC Women | May 9, 2013

For 31 years Tracy Hauser has called Santa Clarita Valley home, and our community has benefitted greatly from her active involvement.

Tracy Hauser

“Santa Clarita Women Magazine” caught up with Tracy to discuss the contributions she has made, and continues to make in our community.

SCW: What do you like about Santa Clarita?

TH: I really enjoy all the open space and (seasonal green) hills we have around us. Santa Clarita is a very unique place. We still have that friendly small town feel, even though our community has grown to well over 250,000 residents. We have so much to offer the residents—-bike trails, hiking trails, the Nature Center in Placerita Canyon, the Aquatic center and skate park, beautiful community parks; there’s so much to do around here for little cost or for free. I appreciate that we have diverse neighborhoods too, ranging from ranch properties in areas like Sand Canyon, Placerita Canyon and Hasley Canyon to planned communities, like Valencia, Stevenson Ranch and Fair Oaks Ranch. We have cool, older homes on big lots in the Happy Valley area too. I really appreciate our wonderful senior communities too, Friendly Valley and Belcaro. There’s a lifestyle choice for a wide range of people. Best of all, we’re not surrounded by concrete and buildings. We still have nature all around us, thanks to the leadership of our city, and the wisdom they had to buy open space for all of us to enjoy.

SCW: How long have you lived in Canyon Country and do you like it?
TH: I moved to Canyon Country in 1982, into a small, three-bedroom house with my first husband. In 1990, we divorced, and I was a single mom for a few years, with three small children. What a scary time that was for me. On October 16, 1993 I married my wonderful husband, Lloyd. We were married at our current home on Roadrunner Road. This too was a small house on a nice, big acre lot. The house was a dump when we bought it. My then 12-year-old daughter, Ashley, and 11-year-old son, Kenny, cried when they saw the house. They were horrified that we would make them live in such an awful house. It really was in pretty bad shape. Thank goodness my very talented husband knew what to do with a fixer. He has been working on the place ever since we moved here. I love where we live, because we have the freedom to do things most people who live in a more traditional neighborhood can’t. For instance, having 200 people over for a Renaissance wedding in your backyard, or having pets, like (15) chickens, (40) fish in a pond, a pig, and a kooky rescue dog who eats rabbits and other critters.

SCW: Which non-profits have you been involved with?
TH: Over the years I have helped out as a behind-the-scenes worker bee with many of the non-profits, as time would allow, along with four kids and working fulltime in a non-stop real estate business.

There are two non-profits that are important to me for personal reasons. The first one is Single Mothers Outreach. I discovered them about 13 years ago when I was looking for help for a client. After being a single mom myself for a short time, I will never forget the huge challenges I faced as a single parent every day. It was heartbreaking missing out on things with my kids because there was no room in the budget. I remember being so stressed out about taking care of the basic needs of food, shelter and gas money to get to work, that I would forget to check the kids’ backpacks for homework. Or, worse, I would miss notices for school awards my kids would be getting. Being a single parent was one of the most challenging times of my life. In spite of all the challenges, I was also blessed with gifts too, like the kindness of other people, which I will never forget. I was also humbled to my knees more than once, just learning to accept help. I had to dig deep into my soul to figure things out. After going through that life-changing journey, I vowed I would reach out and help others going through the challenges of being single parents.

The second non-profit that is near and dear to my heart is the SCV Senior Center. It is from a place of gratitude and appreciation that I am involved with and support the Senior Center. Both of my parents are actively involved in my life. We have a support system that is very strong, and we all pitch in and help each other out. I treasure this so much, and I feel very rich as a person because of the way my family functions as a team. My mom came to live with us fulltime back in 2005, after she sold her B & B in Northern California. In December of 2010 she was diagnosed with colon cancer. I was so grateful that she was already living with us. It’s overwhelming when someone in your family gets really sick, especially if they have never been sick before, such as in my mom’s case. After mom came home from the hospital we all pitch in, taking her to the doctor, my girls doing her laundry and driving her around when my brother, husband, sister-in-law or I could not. Many seniors don’t have this kind of support system. Some of them don’t have family close by or at all. The Senior Center staff and the small army of volunteers is a community of loving, caring people who fill in and add support to the seniors and their families. Most people are not aware of numerous programs the center provides, or that the center feeds over 300 people a day—between the home delivered meals program and the on-site lunches they serve Monday – Friday at the center for about $2 per person.

Now that my kids are mostly grown, I have more space in my life to give back to the community. The Senior Center and SMO are the two non-profits that match up really well with me and how I like to express myself with service for the sake of serving. By nature, I am a networker and I really enjoy matching people up with what they’re looking for, whether it’s finding a home, a resource or a service they need. This is why being in real estate has been a great career match for me. I love the feeling of seeing a match come together. I enjoy helping in the process of getting events put together and telling other people about them.

This last February, the Senior Center held its main fundraising event. It’s call the Celebrity Waiter Dinner, and I have served on the committee off and on for about 7-8 years. This last year I had challenged my good friend Michele, the manager of Le Chene French Cuisine, (which is also a longtime supporter of the center), to see who could raise the most money before the event by doing some outside fundraising. We both asked our clients and friends for donations. Well, he raised over $4,400 and I raised a little over $2,500, and the Senior Center was the big winner. My hunch was right: We want to help out and are more than happy to support worthy causes if we are asked. I received donations ranging from $5-$200. The wonderful thing about this was that hundreds of people got involved at their own level of comfort, by helping out without breaking their budgets.

With SMO I have really stepped it up, too. Like all non-profits, government funding is getting cut way back. It’s just a fact of life. The non-profit service organizations that are going to survive will do so only if the communities that they provide services for see their value and choose to support them and their work. The non-profits have a duty as well, to conduct themselves using a more sustainable business model, which is just what SMO is starting to do. Earlier this year, SMO opened a vintage boutique dress shop that has both new and gently used clothes, shoes and other accessories. The shop is in Old Town Newhall on Main Street, called The Closet On Main Street. One of the best parts of this whole thing is that Margo Hudson (who owned local mainstay, Margo’s Dress Shop) is running the shop! She’s back, ladies. Now you can shop “GUILT FREE,” because when you shop there, you are literally helping other people out. The proceeds from the sales go back to Single Mothers Outreach.

In an effort to get the word out about this amazing shop, I hosted a party with some friends at The Closet this year. Everyone was asked to bring a donation. The guideline for the donation was that it had to be of the same quality that you would give to a dear friend—something nice, and in great shape, like a pair of shoes you wore once or twice, a dress, coat or pair of pants that no longer fits (for whatever reason). Most of us share our things with each other…it’s such a girl thing.

SCW: What are some of your favorite events the non-profits host each year?
TH: This year will be the third year SMO is hosting an event called “The Pool Party.” It’s a fun, low-cost family event that will be held Saturday, August 3 from 3:00-7:00 at the Santa Clarita Aquatic Center. Check out the SMO web site for more information.

Another wonderful family event is “Bark for life.” This is put on by the American Cancer Society and held in late October at Bridgeport Park. The dogs are the focus—they are the ones who have been sponsored to walk (a very short walk) to raise money for the American Cancer Society. This is a very lighthearted event and it’s hilarious too. The dogs come dressed up in costumes. Last year, the first place winner came dressed as Honey Boo Boo. This is a fun family event too. It goes from 8:30 till 10:00 a.m.

On June 14 at Central Park, the Senior Center will be hosting the 1st annual Touch-A-Truck exhibit as a fundraiser. This is another low-cost, fun family event. Dads get in free in honor of Father’s Day and general admission is $5. What’s great about this is that the kids can get on the trucks and really explore them — it’s okay to touch a truck.

SCW: Describe your work and your family.
TH: I truly enjoy what I do for a living. Finding a first-time buyer their new home NEVER gets old. Helping a family to move on from their home can sometimes be emotional for the family, especially if some of the members aren’t ready to move on. This is often the case when there is a job transfer, loss of a job or shift in the family, for instance downsizing an aging parent who is no longer safe living alone.

Stepping into Closet on Main were Tracy and her team (left to right): Deborah Brown, Tracy Grant, Tracy Hauser, Margaret Avery and Danise Davis.

The last few years have been especially challenging for so many people. I have worked with numerous families that have had to sell their homes in a short sale to avoid being foreclosed on. It’s a very sad time for them. My team and I respect and honor the process that our clients are going through and do all that we can to support the whole family. I work with the most amazing team of people. Danise Davis has worked with me for over 19 years. Her main function is supervising and coordinating the escrow process. She meets the inspectors and appraisers, and she works with the escrow officers and loan officers, making sure all the details are being attended to. And she manages the flow of the office too. It’s a big job and she excels at it. Tracy Grant has worked with me for over 13 years. She is the buyer’s agent. Tracy G. helps me with our buyers. She is on the computer several times a day, looking for properties that will be a good fit for our clients. We both attend a networking group. We have a very proactive approach when it comes to helping our clients purchase and sell their homes. Margaret Avery has worked with the team for over 10 years. She helps me with marketing and customer care. Deborah Brown is the newest team member. She has an extensive background in both title and escrow. Deborah is the short sale processor and is also backup support to Danise. These special people are what the classic service team is all about. Personal service.

This April I made a huge change and took my team to a new company, where I am part owner. It’s called Cobalt Realty Group “True Blue.” We’re a boutique real estate company and our focus is on good, old fashioned personal service with a strong technology base. Cobalt is a synergistic group of agents working together to support each other and the clients we serve. Our mission statement is a quote from Margaret Mead:

“Never doubt that a small group of committed people can change the world.” Indeed it is the only thing that ever has.”

I have a wonderful family. Ashley is my oldest and is now married to a fantastic man named Ryan. They have two great

Grandma Tracy loves her grandkids

kids — a little boy named Rowdy who is three, and a little girl named Bowie who just turned a year old on April 9. My son, Kenny, is also married to a wonderful girl named Janelle. They just had a son last November whose name is Kade. My daughter, Bailey, has been dating a wonderful guy, named Kenny. She has been working with children for several years and is working her way into the medical field. Angela, my youngest, is going to school at COC and enjoying the last days of being a teenager. She is turning 19.

SCW: What do you like to do in your spare time?
TH: In my down time I enjoy lazy walks in Solana Beach with my husband, Lloyd, walking Lucy, our dog, with my girls, and going on hikes with my girlfriends. I really enjoy re-doing furniture and, best of all, I LOVE playing with my three grandkids.

SCW: Is there a challenge you have for community residents, maybe in terms of giving back?
TH: The challenge I have for the residents of our wonderful community is to find some small way to add value to the lives of others. It can be as simple as picking up trash when you walk in front of it and are two feet away from a trash can. Go to the senior center and talk with some of the seniors or, better still — volunteer to be a ride along with one of the drivers for the home delivered meals program.

The simplest things done with kindness can make such a huge difference. Bring dinner to an overworked single parent, a lonely senior, or a friend who may be suffering because of the loss of a loved one. Do not underestimate the power you have to redirect the negativity in the world to a more positive place…to do something nice for someone just because you can. It is has been my personal experience that kindness matters. It always has.

Kim Goldman and the SCV Youth Project

| Articles, SC Women | March 11, 2013

Kim Goldman

Kim Goldman is widely known as a local expert when it comes to support for youth and teens. Santa Clarita Women caught up with her recently, to find out more about SCV Youth Project.

SCW: What is something others may not know about SCV Youth Project?
KG: We have been in business for 12 years…and we are the brainchild behind the Sweet Charity Cake Auction, which everyone loves to attend! But, more importantly, we got started because the City of Santa Clarita determined that there was a shortage of services specifically designed to help our teens – pretty family-centric!!

SCW: How many students do you work with in the William S. Hart School District?
KG: On a direct service basis (one-on-one or support groups) – so far, close to 600 kids with more than 800 hours provided…and more than 1,000 kids so far with our outreach. The first semester is always slower than the second, so we expect to have a higher number, come May, 2013.

SCW: Do you work with adolescents who do not attend public school?
KG: We work with all teens in the Hart District and are starting to work with charter Schools as well (SCVi and Albert Einstein).

SCW: How many years has SCV Youth Project been established in the SCV?
KG: We opened in 2000 – so we are in our 13th year. NUTS!

SCW: How many years have you been with the organization?
KG: I started in 2005 – which is equally NUTS!

SCW: What changes are in the works?
KG: Right now, our goal is to maintain and sustain our current programs – we are working hard to stay on top of the current requests, with a limited budget. With all the cuts to the school budgets, everyone is working on a tighter shoe string – we lost funding from the Hart District – but we DID NOT lessen our services and, in fact, are seeing the same (if not more) students than when we were funded. My goal is to start working with the elementary students – we have a long way to go before I can be fully staffed on those campuses, but that is what I would love my legacy to be.

SCW: What occurs at a typical group?
KG: It depends on the group – typically staff starts with a check-in (determine if there are any crises to handle or if anyone has anything they would like to start with). Then they go from there – we have a curriculum and worksheets to use, if we get stuck – but mostly the groups are determined by the participants themselves. The group members help lead and process the issues that their peers are dealing with (with the guidance of my staff, of course). We deal with everything – divorce, anger, bullying, drugs/alcohol, abuse, depression, suicide, grief, trauma, general relationship issues, family issues, body image, confidence …grades, motivation…you name it. EVERYTHING COMES UP!

SCW: What kind of training/education do group leaders have?
KG: Our staff are first and/or second year interns from the Cal State Northridge masters of social work program. We are overseen by a LCSW (licensed clinical social worker), who helps to ensure that we are servicing our clients in the most appropriate and effective manner. We train our staff by role playing, debriefing, outside trainers, etc.

SCW: Is there a growing need for help with teens? If so, why?
KG: Kids are always in need – the degree with which they need support varies. All kids are at risk, if we turn our backs on them. They are all susceptible to falling through the cracks. Each youth deals with situations differently – there is no formula, no right or wrong – so we need to treat each teen uniquely, offering a safe, non-judgmental environment, allowing them to share their concerns, ask their questions, and be validated for their feelings.

SCW: What should the average SCV parent know or become aware of as their kids grow older?
KG: Stay connected – be involved, BE THEIR PARENT. This is not the time to be their friend. You can be open, honest, candid with your teen, while establishing healthy boundaries. Kids are dealing with so many outside influences, while they are also dealing with puberty, school and, not to mention, an under developed brain – so we can’t expect them to know how to deal with everything and to have it all “worked out.” Ask questions – listen to answers — don’t be afraid to seek outside support if you need it. There are lots of things that kids think about, that feel uncomfortable for a parent to address (sex, drugs, birth control, clothing style, etc.). Learn how to be an active listener, as opposed to shutting your child down for having a curiosity about something.

SCW: What do you think about the child-rearing atmosphere in the SCV?
KG: Hmm, I think we are a fairly family-focused community and I love that…part of the reason I moved here. But, that being said, we ALL have the ability to bury our heads in the sand when it gets tough…just because we live in a beautiful community, it doesn’t make us immune to dealing with peer pressure, bullying, violence, drugs, pregnancy, depression, suicide, etc. Our kids are working hard to make mom/dad proud and to be the best they can be…to achieve the highest grades, scores, points on the field, etc. But, they also need time to be kids, to explore, to create, to have fun…to fall in love, have a broken heart, etc. That is ALL part of the process…and it’s beautiful.

SCW: Why did you move here?
KG: At the time, I moved here because I could afford a new house without going broke. I was working out of the SCV at the time, and that was very stressful! Being a single parent here is hard sometimes, but I feel very connected and committed to the community where I live…I love the attention to youth, and the opportunities for family stuff…I feel safe and feel like I have built a nice life for my son and myself.

Jeri Seratti-Goldman – Responding to Needs Around Her

| Articles, SC Women | December 7, 2012

by Martha Michael

Jeri with her husband Carl Goldman

When someone near to Jeri Seratti-Goldman is in crisis, she is there to help. Her energy and her growing passion to support non-profit causes is legendary.

Case in point: When Chris and Sue Hoefflin of Canyon Country endured the loss of their 11-year-old son to cancer, neighbor Seratti-Goldman got to work. Along with other local residents and the Hoefflin family, Seratti-Goldman helped to launch what would become a powerful presence to families bearing the sting of childhood cancers: the Michael Hoefflin Foundation. She was personally involved with the budding non-profit organization, serving as chairperson of the Hoefflin Foundation for its first seven years. Also, the organization’s annual fundraiser was held in the Goldman family’s backyard the first year.

Seratti-Goldman’s charity work did not stop there. She got involved in the Child & Family Center, a Santa Clarita organization whose mission is to provide services to multi-need families. There, Seratti-Goldman chaired the annual “Taste of the Town” fundraiser, which she worked to bring back to the SCV from being hosted in Piru in previous years. It was her Child & Family Center colleagues who nominated her for Santa Clarita Valley Woman of the Year, which she won in 2005.

After serving with the Hoefflins, she joined the board of directors at Providence Holy Cross Cancer Center. “I was giving back in memory of my mom,” explained Seratti-Goldman, who was responsible for a life-sized piece of art placed at the hospital’s entrance in 2009. “We commissioned a sculptor to have him create an angel…and now my mom greets everyone.”

The statue, called “Healing Angel of Reconciliation,” was designed by Steven Lavaggi, who is known as the “Artist of Hope.” Seratti-Goldman is still involved with Holy Cross, “but I’m taking a break from the board to do Habitat,” she said.

What the philanthropist was referring to was her most recent passion, helping “Habitat for Heroes,” a hybrid charity where Habitat for Humanity joins forces with the California Department of Veteran Affairs (CalVet) to build homes for veterans and their families. Through this collaboration, low-income veterans will qualify for beautiful four-bedroom homes, which veterans can purchase using a CalVet Home Loan, a Habitat SF/SCV second loan, and in the case of some projects, a deferred silent third loan from the California Department of Housing and Community Development. The veteran will provide sweat equity to reduce the costs and help build these green, energy-efficient affordable homes. The Centre Pointe Habitat for Heroes is Sponsored by SoCal Gas Company in partnership with KHTS 1220 AM Radio. MilitaryConnection.Com nurtured the introductions, and the Governor’s Interagency Council on Veterans helped to bring the collaboration to completion.

“Last year we started in November rehabilitating vets’ homes,” said Seratti-Goldman. “These kids come back after joining the military after high school…not educated, have three kids, heavily in debt…one of the awesome things about Habitat for Heroes is that it’s not a hand out, but a hand up. They have to give service hours. The first man (helped by Habitat for Heroes locally) had PTSD, (post traumatic stress disorder), and wouldn’t leave the house. Now he’s painting with us.”

Future plans include a building project of 87 homes on the property next to Bowman High School on Centre Pointe Pkwy. And collaboration is always the modus operandi. “Cary and Kirsten Quashen (of Action Family Counseling) have given us space,” said Seratti-Goldman. “And it’s a partnership with Help the Children.”

In fact, Seratti-Goldman said that the local Habitat for Heroes, along with Help the Children, is looking for a building to buy. And Seratti-Goldman has more plans for her work there. “Habitat has re-stores,” she said. “Home Depot and Lowes give Habitat their remains in Chatsworth…we want to create one up here.”

Working for the good of Santa Clarita is natural for Seratti-Goldman, who bought her first condominium in this valley as a single, 20-something woman. She moved away for a brief period, but returned when she and Carl purchased radio station KBET in 1990, which they sold to Clear Channel in 1998 and repurchased as KHTS in 2003.

“We moved to Sand Canyon because we knew Sulphur Springs (Community School) was a great school,” she said. Seratti-Goldman served two terms on the Sulphur Springs School District Site Council and was the treasurer for the Sulphur Springs PTA.

Carl and Jeri have two children. Ryan, 24, is a graduate of West Point, currently a 1st Lieutenant based at Ft. Campbell, Kentucky, and recently married to Haley, an elementary school teacher in Clarksville, Tenn. Kyle, 18, is in the 12th grade in Santa Clarita.

When asked how she would describe why she is pleased to have established Santa Clarita as her home, Jeri Seratti-Goldman summed it up: “We’ve raised our two boys here…it’s a large community that feels like a small community.”

SCV Habitat for Heroes

| SC Women, Spotlight News | December 7, 2012

An important part of Habitat for Humanity International, the renowned non-profit organization dedicated to creating housing for those in need, SCV Habitat for Heroes has been designed to zero in on the needs of United States veterans of war located here in this valley.

Veterans, family members of veterans, and families of fallen soldiers can benefit from the mission of this group’s services. Reports indicate that 80,000 vets who served after 9/11 are paying more than 50 percent of their income for housing, leaving little for repairs or modifications to their homes. Often their homes fall into foreclosure, leaving the families, their neighbors and the community at risk. Many homes fall into disrepair.

Santa Clarita Valley’s veteran population exceeds 10,000, according to recent Census data.  Another report reveals the area is home to a disproportionately high number of veterans — more than 700 — from Iraq and Afghanistan. It has been well documented that many of them return to poor living conditions due to financial hardships, while others deal with new disabilities and no means to modify their homes. There are countless others who served years ago, but now struggle in their later years with new disabilities.

Almost 43,000 military personnel have been wounded in Operations Enduring Freedom, Iraqi Freedom and New Dawn, according to the U.S. Department of Defense. Many of these wounded soldiers and veterans require modified housing. We hear their stories every day. They must deal with post-war injuries, punctuated by a major lack of jobs, a housing market in turmoil, and a rapidly changing economy that is leaving many behind.

This data prompted several of our community business leaders, non-profit organizations and others, along with Habitat for Humanity San Fernando Valley/Santa Clarita Valley (SF/SCV), to launch Habitat for Heroes. Jeri Seratti-Goldman, featured in this month’s Santa Clarita Living Magazine, was one of the local leaders who responded to these needs, and she now serves on the organization’s advisory board.

SCV Habitat for Heroes is looking for partners, volunteers, in-kind and cash donors, and others to step in so that veterans get the assistance they need to empower them towards ongoing wellness and self-sufficiency.
First Enterprise Bank joined HFHSF/SCV & CalVet to build homes for veterans in Santa Clarita and Los Angeles, while KHTS AM 1220 and the California Gas Company were honored for their support for veterans through Habitat for Heroes. Some of Habitat for Humanity’s major supporters include Home Depot, Rabobank, National Construction Rentals and Primestor.

Habitat ReStores
A part of Habitat for Humanity San Fernando Valley/Santa Clarita Valley’s Habitat for Heroes, this building surplus supply store creates a self-sustaining funding source for the purchase of land and the building of affordable housing for low-income and veteran families in our community. The ReStore model, developed by Habitat for Humanity International, enables them to give back to the community by offering  job training and programs for the area.

The ReStore will be a recycling center for the San Fernando Valley, with proceeds enabling the construction of houses for low-income and veteran families. Building materials and home appliances are donated by retail businesses, manufacturers (new, overstocked and discontinued), also contractors, individuals and other organizations, (including the entertainment industry). The store will accept donations of new and used building materials, fixtures, furniture, appliances, tools and other surplus items appropriate to its market segment, and offer them to the public at bargain prices.

The ReStore is located at 9606 DeSoto Avenue in Chatsworth. Call the Donation Hotline at (818) 341-9931.


A personal story

Joshua is an Army veteran who has completed two tours of duty. In his most recent tour, Joshua stood in a guard tower for 14 months at what is now known as Joint Base Balad in Iraq. His tower was constantly under fire and in danger of attack from Iraqi insurgents. In his last few months in Iraq, Joshua was hit by one of these mortar explosions and was left with back, head and elbow injuries.

He cannot work due to his disabilities and is on a fixed income with monthly payments from the government. His wife, Windie, quit her job when Joshua’s tour was over so that she could take care of him full time.

Before Habitat for Humanity SF/SCV Joshua and Windie lived in a home with 20-plus-year-old appliances, including a refrigerator they had to turn off and on to save on electricity.

Joshua’s PTSD, back and head trauma posed as a huge problem in the shower. He would often get dizzy and almost fall, he could not bend over long enough to wash his lower legs or feet.

To cut down on the energy cost, Habitat for Heroes provided them with new appliances and windows. They also modified Joshua’s shower with a shower seat so that he can sit to wash his lower body, and rails to steady him while standing. Most importantly, as part of the family services self-sufficiency training, Windie has received the tools and information to obtain an in-home supportive services monthly income.

Trending Now!

| SC Women | December 4, 2012

By Madison Schwartz

Colorful Skinny Jeans

This fall’s fresh approach to fashion trends are colored, basic, and embroidered! Colored Denim is a must have this season – pastels, neon greens, pinks, oranges, blues, and even a few printed skinnies filled our magazines and intrigued our eyes this past spring. However, color fever has never been hotter! This fall, try to focus on warm earth tones like muted yellows, rich merlots, olive greens, cognac, royal blues, burnt oranges, and grey undertones. Fresh features Mavi’s 2012 $98 Lindy Cayenne Skinny, and the Lindy Golden Oak Skinny, for just a start.

Build from Basics!!! Leggings, oversized sweaters and scarves can make the most boring outfit turn into the boldest. We all have them, and if you

Love Stitch’s Rust Colored Oversized Detail Pocket Sweater front

don’t, then go get them! Having a nice thick, solid black legging is the best basic to build the boldest fall outfit. Oversized sweaters, such as the Love Stitch’s Rust Colored Oversized Detail Pocket Sweater is warm, super soft, perfect for all body types and ages. So, we have a basic legging, a solid crew neck oversized sweater…and what else?


The perfect accessory, and the final piece to a perfect fall outfit: a scarf – the key to finishing up your fall fantasy look. The animal print scarf (below) can be used to spice up the simplicity of the solid sweater and legging.

Obviously, the look can’t be finished without a shoe, and – don’t worry – there are a few options with an outfit as simple as the one described. Depending on where you find yourself, day or night, work or play, choose a shoe that makes sense. Boots, boots, and more boots are stomping through our magazines, and kicking their way into our closets – solid black or grey, short or tall, leather or pleather, I wish I could have them all! All you need is a pair that you could see yourself wearing with multiple outfits that you have in your closet already.

Love Stitch Bell Sleeve, front

Embroidered, textured, and blousy tops are huge this fall. Look for pieces that compliment your body type, first and foremost! Embroidered bohemian blouses, such as the Love Stitch Bell Sleeve, are versatile pieces that can transition from casual to dressy in an instant. All you need is a basic cream, white, brown or black cami, and pair it up with a legging, and rich brown tall boot, and you’re set for the day.
What if you don’t really have the energy to change your whole outfit? Then grab a close-toed basic black or brown platform shoe and throw on a scarf necklace. What if you did have time to change up your look a bit, but loved your top so much you didn’t want to change it? A dark denim skinny will dress up your top,

Love Stitch’s Rust Colored Oversized Detail Pocket Sweater back

and then you can choose to either wear a ballet flat, boot, or platform, depending on what the night has in store for you.

Here are a few things that I use as my trend guidelines for fall pieces for my personal wardrobe and fresh lifestyles:
*Build from basics
*Fall into your winter wardrobe
*Staple items: leggings, denim leggings, oversized sweaters, and scarves!
*Key notes: layering
*Build your outfits from top to bottom, wearing transitional pieces that go from day to night and warm to cold: camis, blouses, sweaters and/or jackets
*Trending: lace embroidered blouses, light ruffles, patterned tights, burly boots, and charm scarves

Love Stitch Bell Sleeve, back

Fashion isn’t just clothes you buy, every piece is an investment!

Madison Schwartz is the owner/buyer for Fresh Lifestyle at 24263 Main Street in Newhall. Visit Fresh at http://freshboutiqueinc.com/.

A Sweet Deal

| Articles, SC Women | October 5, 2012

By Rachel Tovar

Bennett’s Honey Farm has been in the Santa Clarita Valley’s backyard for over three decades. Beginning in 1978, Red and Ann Bennett started a backyard hive as a hobby, which flourished into the eco-friendly solar powered spot many people know and love. Coming under new ownership in 2011, this place maintained its charm. Nestled between an orange grove and row crops of cilantro, Bennett’s Honey Farm is a local favorite along scenic Highway 126.  You don’t have to be in the quaint retail store for more than a few minutes before you realize a sweet piece of information: the enormous health benefits that naturally occur from the production of honey bees.

A queen bee is not born; it is chosen in the larvae state by the other bees in the hive and fed “royal jelly,” which is sold raw and in capsule form. The health benefit claims of royal jelly are many. Not only is it a good source of proteins, rich in eight essential amino acids, but ingesting it is said to promote youthful looking skin, because collagen is a significant component.

Royal jelly is depended upon to alleviate anxiety, for sleeplessness, moodiness, memory loss and bolstering the immune system. You might call it the unsung hero of the beehive. Another related practice, used by allergy sufferers, is to treat symptoms with local pollen, which acts as an anti-venom. Taking small amounts regularly can help build immunity to allergens.

Of the many naturally occurring byproducts of the beehive, propolis is considered a source of life energy. It begins as resin secreted by trees, then metabolized by the bees, which is brought back to the hive to line the interior. Its effect is to cleanse the bloodstream and allow the body to reject harmful bacteria. This wonder of the honey hive has rejuvenating properties that are used to alleviate infection and help provide major healing reactions.

The folks at Bennett’s Honey Farm are incredibly passionate about what they do. They are committed to educating their customers about the process and the product. Inquiring minds will be able to tour the facility during the 2nd Annual California Honey Harvest Festival next summer, held in June of 2013. Currently, you can drive to Fillmore and experience the live in-store beehive at Bennett’s Honey Farm…sweeeeet!

Julie Benson Royally Connected

| Articles, SC Women | October 4, 2012

by Martha Michael

Julie Benson

When you meet Julie Benson, it isn’t long before you see that she comes from a royal line…cruise line, that is. As vice-president of public relations for Princess Cruises in Valencia, she has sailed her way through almost 30 years with the company. But, despite the image of her job taking her to faraway places, Benson is firmly embedded in this community.

She currently sits on the boards of the Boys & Girls Club of Santa Clarita, Michael Hoefflin Foundation, Santa Clarita Chamber of Commerce, and Repertory East Playhouse. In addition, she leads her company’s community relations activities in Santa Clarita, so she has been involved in a myriad of fundraising efforts for a wide range of non-profits in the SCV.

“The Santa Clarita community is so dedicated to helping non-profits, and I’m inspired by the people I meet who work hard to make our valley a better place for all,” says Benson. “And because our community is somewhat ‘small,’ it’s easy to see the results of our participation in these organizations…it’s very gratifying.”

It is also easy to see the overlap between Benson’s public relations career and her involvement with local non-profits. After all, Princess Cruises appears as a sponsor for numerous fundraisers in the area, and Benson is usually in attendance.

“I think I have one of the best jobs on the planet!” she says. “I never get tired of coming to work everyday representing such a great brand as Princess Cruises and the wonderful vacation experiences we offer our passengers. No two days are ever the same and there are always new challenges and opportunities to learn and grow – I’m very lucky.”

The obvious next question is, “Has she traveled a lot?”

“Yes, I’ve been on many cruises over the years, sometimes to work and sometimes on vacation,” says Benson.  “Each time I go aboard our ships I’m so proud to be associated with the company and our people.”

Benson took her first job in the cruise industry in 1983 with Sitmar Cruises, which later merged with Princess Cruises. Prior to that, Benson had worked for some Los Angeles public relations firms after earning a Bachelor of Science degree in journalism from California State University, San Diego. The Hart High School graduate was born in the San Fernando Valley, and moved with her parents to Santa Clarita (then Valencia) in 1970.

Benson met her husband of 22 years, Bruce Krumrine, while working at Princess. He is the vice-president of shore operations, which takes him across the globe. The couple has two sons, ages 19 and 14. The family moved to Santa Clarita in 1998 after Princess moved its corporate headquarters to Valencia.

“I’m very blessed to both live and work in Santa Clarita, which positively impacts the quality of life for my family and me. I love the natural beauty of our valley, and the fact you can feel very connected to people, places and activities,” says Benson. “Of course, raising children in Santa Clarita and being able to take advantage of the good schools and sports programs is a wonderful benefit.”

While Benson can look back at the smooth sailing so far, is it full speed ahead when it comes to future plans?

“Both my husband and I are looking forward to finishing our careers with Princess,” she explains. “Our long range plans are to continue traveling the world, and pursuing our interests, including taking classes, honing our culinary arts skills, plus gardening and design. Our list is very long, and even includes building a house.”

It sounds like the Krumrine-Benson clan may be leaving the surf for the turf? Only if the coast is clear.

Exercise, for so many reasons

| Articles, SC Women | August 20, 2012

We all let life happen. We spend time nourishing our families, taking care of our friends, working at one or more jobs, and often leave ourselves last on the to-do list. Exercise can be the last thing we make time for in our busy lives, but aside from the obvious physical changes, exercise creates balance in many ways – physiologically, emotionally, and spiritually as well.

“It’s the mind/body approach,” says Rochelle Ison, Director of Fitness Services for Total Woman Gym & Day Spa. “Often people get caught up in a number on the scale or tape measure, but exercise provides the body and mind so much more than just activity. We look at the WHOLE person and what impact exercise can influence. Exercise creates changes from the inside out.”

Exercise plays a valuable role in stress reduction, improving emotional health, disease prevention, and it may reduce the chance of developing a chronic condition such as diabetes or heart disease. It gives us more energy for life’s daily tasks as well as increases our ability to cope with what life throws at us. The result of a consistent, long-term exercise program can be as external as physical weight loss, as comprehensive as increased self-confidence or better dental health, and as long-term as healthier aging.

Pilates provide a great form of exercise

Rochelle adds, “Consistency and customization is the key to being a fitness success,” noting that it usually takes between 8-12 weeks of consistent exercise to develop habits and achieve results. “Along with consistency, having a customized program also directly affects results.”

This doesn’t mean that you have to hit the gym for two hours every day. Simple, achievable changes are the key to success. Start by incorporating exercises you like into your daily routine. Once you get into the habit, you’ll be more likely to keep going. “If you have a fitness program that is customized for your body, your interests and goals, you will be guaranteed to achieve those results in a safe, effective and efficient manner.  Exercise smarter not harder,” she says.

Customized Exercise plans increase your success

Day of Service

| Articles, SC Women | August 18, 2012

The group from last year’s Day of Service

On Sunday, February 26, as Oscar fever was reaching its pitch, 21 women, seven children, and one man were packing gift bags for girls in need of heart surgery.

In stark contrast to limousines, red carpets and shimmering gowns, members of Soroptimist International of Greater Santa Clarita Valley hand-tied blankets and created over a hundred gift bags for Mending Kids International, who provides life-changing surgical care to children worldwide. “Such a ‘Day of Service’ is a tradition with over 90,000 Soroptimist women worldwide,” said Chair Naomi Carmona-Morshead.

Naomi Carmona-Morshead, right

Mending Kids International Medical Missions Coordinator, Caren Niewisch, shared how “for over 10 years, we have arranged the assembly of international teams of surgeons, nurses, technicians and other volunteers to descend upon a designated area in Latin America or Africa to perform up to 40 surgeries over a two week period.”  The Soroptimist bags will go to girls in El Salvador and Ethiopia, Haiti China and Christmas Island.

MKI (www.MendingKids.org) has helped hundreds of children receive corrective, transformational surgeries giving them a life-saving chance at a longer, healthier life. These children have traveled for hours for a chance on the operating table. The gift bags contain hand-made blankets and a stuffed animal, along with small toys, candy, and toiletries to help each girl find comfort while in a strange and potentially scary place. Many of the children have no personal possessions of their own and are thrilled to receive the gift bags.

MKI also partners with Los Angeles (LA) area hospitals to bring very ill children here where they stay with host families who care for sick children before and after surgery. More importantly, their Teaching Program sponsors doctors to travel to developing countries and trains local doctors to become self-sufficient and less dependent, providing an opportunity to thousands rather than dozens of children.

Soroptimist International is an international volunteer service organization founded in 1921 for business and professional women of all ages, cultures and ethnic groups. The mission of this organization is to improve the lives of women and girls in Santa Clarita Valley and throughout the world.

If you wish to learn more about Soroptimist International of Greater Santa Clarita Valley, visit www.sigscv.org or contact President Sue Reynolds at 661.755.3308 / sreynolds@newmarketcareers.com.

A Call to the Troops, What Suffragettes Started, SIGSCV Stands For

| Articles, SC Women | August 17, 2012

Women with a cause is nothing new. And we, the members of Soroptimist International of Greater Santa Clarita Valley, continue to carry the torch, supporting women and girls in the community and beyond.

We started the 2011-2012 year at the 4th of July parade in Newhall, following Mayor Marsha and Councilwoman Weste as the Grand Marshalls, celebrating 100 years of women’s right to vote. Think about it: we couldn’t VOTE 100 years ago. But our sisters, the Suffragettes, fought for that.  They wore trademark white dresses with campaign sashes and button hook boots.  They would have been Soroptimists! So, what would they think of us now?

We’ve accomplished a lot this year! We’ve sipped, strolled and savored, which enabled us to support breast-feeding in the new Neo-Natal Intensive Care Unit, and to help the Sheila R. Veloz Breast Imaging Center to provide strong screening services. We strutted the runway at Fashion, Fun & Fantasy, which established the SIGSCV “Educating Women to Lead” scholarship, emphasizing female veterans and single mothers. We helped the SCV Domestic Violence Shelter, Break the Cycle, and Valley Trauma Center. Then again we banded together for July’s High Heel-a-Thon  to Stomp Out Domestic and Teen-Dating Violence!

We helped provide classroom resources to teach girls how to enjoy safe dating. We helped three girls to experience classroom realities on their path to being teachers, and helped three others with their college tuition as future educators. We supported beds for homeless women at the Emergency Winter Shelter. We awarded the Jacquie Petersen Award for dance, the Violet Richardson Award for service, and the Women’s Opportunity Award, the key award for SIA in giving women a hand up.

We have been recognized regionally, even internationally, for leadership in fund-raising, membership and public awareness.

What would the suffragettes say? They’d tell us to keep going. Women are homeless. Women are still paid less than men. Women around the world are being used as tools of war. Women are dying in childbirth. Women are hungry and have no clean water for their children. Women are struggling for education instead of ignorance. Women are aging in squalor. Women are even hurting themselves:  they’re drinking, taking drugs, cutting themselves. Women are being beaten. Women are dying. But we can, and are, taking action.

So, as the Suffragettes – complete with dresses, sashes and boots – gaze at us from their graves…what are they saying? They are standing with us, and we must keep marching.


By Susan Reynolds

Foster Families Needed for Infants and Toddlers

| Articles, SC Women, Spotlight News | August 16, 2012

Every child deserves to have a safe, loving and permanent home. Children’s Bureau needs foster families who will care specifically for infants and toddlers during the reunification process with their parents. There are also 114,000 children currently in foster care who are unable to return to their families of origin. Children’s Bureau is seeking caring families to consider adopting these older children and large sibling sets.  The agency is holding a monthly information meeting for those interested in learning more on Saturday, August 25 from 10:00 a.m. – 11:30 a.m. in the Community Room at the Westfield Valencia Town Center, located at 24201 West Valencia Blvd. in Valencia.

Children’s Bureau encourages individuals (single or married), teachers, retired persons and anyone interested in helping children find the love, stability and support a family can provide, to contact Children’s Bureau. Qualifying families receive training, certification, financial reimbursement and medical benefits for the children. Also, 24-hour support is provided to aid in the care of their foster and adoptive children. For more information, call (661) 272-9996 or visit the website: www.all4kids.org. An information packet or application may be requested by filling out a request form on the website, if desired. An application may also be printed directly from the website.

For over 100 years, Children’s Bureau has been a nonprofit leader in the prevention and treatment of child abuse and neglect. More than 21,000 children and families are helped each year throughout Southern California with services that include school readiness, parenting classes, family resource centers, support groups, mental health counseling, foster care, adoption and more.

A Worldwide Welcome for Cheri

| Articles, SC Women | August 16, 2012

Cheri Fleming, dealer principal of Valencia Acura, is putting Santa Clarita on the map in the world of international non-profits. She has been named president-elect of Soroptimist International of the Americas, assuming the office on September 1. The following year she will ascend to the office of president.

Cheri and Don at 2011 Wine Affair

Fleming, of Westridge, is co-owner of Valencia Acura with her husband, Don Fleming. She was elected to the board of directors of Soroptimist International of the Americas in 2010 and serves as the current secretary/treasurer.

“I couldn’t be more honored or excited to win the election of 2012-13 president-elect of Soroptimist International of the Americas,” Fleming said. “Our global mission of improving the lives of women and girls is personally so important to me. I can’t wait to begin this new leadership chapter and personal journey in my life.”

Soroptimist International of the Americas is comprised of more than 36,000 Soroptimist members in 20 different countries and territories, including not only all of the Americas, but also countries in the Far East such as Japan, Thailand, and others. Soroptimist is an international organization for business and professional women with nearly 100,000 Soroptimists in about 120 countries and territories.  The name Soroptimist means “best for women.”

Locally, Fleming is a member of Soroptimist International of Greater Santa Clarita Valley. Since joining Soroptimist in 1999, Fleming has served as club president, district director and governor of the El Camino Real Region.

Soroptimist International of Greater Santa Clarita Valley has orchestrated a wide variety of events and educational initiatives in the past year. The Wine Affair… “Sip, Stroll and Savor the Sounds” enabled the group to support of breast-feeding in the new Neo-Natal Intensive Care Unit, and continued support of the Sheila R. Veloz Breast Imaging Center, to provide strong screening services. The Wine Affair will take place at the Westfield Valencia Town Center this fall on Sunday, October 21  (www.thewineaffair.org).  Funds raised at the spring “Fashion, Fun & Fantasy” event established the SIGSCV “Educating Women to Lead” scholarship, emphasizing female veterans and single mothers.  (This event is planned again for March, 2013.)  Last year’s High Heel-a-Thon helped the SCV Domestic Violence Shelter, Break the Cycle, and Valley Trauma Center. This year’s event sought to Stomp Out Domestic and Teen-Dating Violence! The Club helped provide classroom resources to teach girls how to enjoy safe dating. SI of Greater Santa Clarita Valley helped three girls to experience classroom realities on their paths to being teachers, and helped three others with their college tuition as future educators.

The Club supported beds for homeless women at the Emergency Winter Shelter, and developed care packages for children undergoing cardiac surgery, while also supporting the medical professionals attending to them. Several awards programs provide financial assistance and encouragement:  the Jacquie Petersen Award for dance, the Violet Richardson Award for service, and the Women’s Opportunity Award, which is the key award for SIA in giving women a hand up.  The Club has been recognized regionally, even internationally, for leadership in fund-raising, membership and public awareness.

Alongside her work with Soroptimist, Fleming was recently honored as Woman of the Year for the Fifth Supervisorial District by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors and the Commission for Women. She was nominated for the award by Los Angeles County Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich, who cited her years of work with Soroptimist International of the Americas in her nomination.

She was also named SCV Woman of the Year in 2004. In addition, Fleming has served on numerous nonprofit boards, including the Child & Family Center and Henry Mayo Newhall Memorial Health Foundation. She has chaired and co-chaired fundraisers for the Arthritis Foundation, Boys & Girls Club of SCV and the American Cancer Society.

Because of Cheri Fleming’s consistency, always putting her best foot forward, no longer will philanthropists abroad wonder where in the world is Santa Clarita.

Cheri and Don Fleming

Contact Soroptimist International of Greater Santa Clarita Valley at www.sigscv.org.

Do It Yourself Chalkboard

| SC Women | July 2, 2012

There are many uses for old wooden windows – some people put pictures behind the glass and hang them as photo frames. We decided to create a chalkboard. With the availability of chalkboard paint at almost any hardware store, it is really pretty easy to make anything into a chalkboard!

If youwant to try your own, there are wood framed windows  for sale at The Living Room Emporium, 27261 Camp Plenty Road in Canyon Country

Call (661) 505-5244 or email info@thelivingroomemporium.com.

Dawn Hovhannisyan Rebuilding Programs that Rebuild Lives

| SC Women | June 29, 2012

At the time Hovhannisyan joined the board of directors at Single Mothers Outreach (SMO) in May of 2005, she had been a single mother for nearly a decade, so she understood the value of the services the organization provides. SMO had been struggling financially and she stepped in to help. Then in 2007, when Single Mothers Outreach faced extinction, Hovhannisyan played a big role in helping SMO reorganize and rebuild.The SMO directors spent all of 2008 redefining the organization and adding programs that gave the necessary tools to single parents so they could rebuild their lives.
During the reorganization, Hovhannisyan launched and chaired a new event for SMO, the Fools’ Paradise Golf Tournament and Wine Tasting event, which brought much needed funding and validation for SMO. Dawn served as President in 2011. During her term, SMO secured important grants from Ahmanson, Annenberg, Ronald McDonald House and the Weingart Foundation. In fact, under Hovhannisyan’s leadership, SMO experienced the best financial year in its 16-year history, a significant achievement during a particularly challenging climate for nonprofits, and in spite of the fact the organization’s expenses had increased.
Hovhannisyan’s nonprofit experience extends beyond Single Mothers Outreach. She also serves on the board of directors for the Child & Family Center Foundation. She spent her first year serving as the founding chair for their newly formed Young Leadership Corps (YLC). This new foundation subgroup focuses on leadership development and small fundraising initiatives for the Child and Family Center. Her team became the event problem-solving arm of the Foundation.  YLC helps troubleshoot and fix event challenges. In her year as founder, they tackled the Foundation’s Annual Golf Tournament, now is now run by the YLC instead of the Foundation board. YLC also helped run the family ride portion of the Century Ride and the Taste of the Town silent auction.
Due to her valuable contribution to SMO, as well as to the impact she has had on the community, Dawn Hovhannisyan was the Single Mothers Outreach nominee for the 2012 Santa Clarita Valley Woman of the Year. She is much appreciated by staff and members.

Arlene and Jake’s Story

| SC Women | June 21, 2012

Arlene’s adoption journey was sparked after watching the heartwarming television special, “A Home for the Holidays,” which focuses on adoption and the various kinds of families created through adoption. She had always wanted to be a mother and decided to explore her options. She found Children’s Bureau via an advertisement in The Hollywood Reporter and was delighted to discover that the agency had an office conveniently located across the street from her home!

Initially, Arlene focused on adopting a sibling set of older girls. As a single, working parent, she thought this was the best family make up for her situation and began to set up her household with that intent.

“Finding the right match was a roller coaster ride.  In some cases, I was one of the families considered but wasn’t chosen.  In other cases, my intuition told me the match wasn’t right. I also learned that many of these older children had mental health issues and I wasn’t feeling comfortable or prepared to handle those issues as a first-time parent,” said Arlene.

Arlene’s search for a child continued, but the focus shifted to a low-risk adoption. Children’s Bureau also asked her to consider a younger child. At this time, Arlene’s job situation had changed and she realized that maybe this was a better option for her.  Shortly afterwards, Arlene was matched with a happy and healthy seven-month-old boy she named Jake.

Adopting Jake was not simple due to various issues with the birth mom, however, it all worked out and the adoption was finalized a week before Jake’s second birthday. Jake also faced developmental challenges. He was failing to thrive and required physical, occupational and speech therapies. He did not walk until he was 15 months old, only became verbal at 18 months and displayed odd behavior.  Eventually, Jake was diagnosed with highly functioning autism spectrum disorder. Despite these obstacles, Jake began to progress with early intervention and intensive behavioral services.

“Jake is now a beautiful four-year-old with boundless energy. He studies karate and takes acting classes. He is very perceptive and remembers everything. He enjoys frequent trips to New York to visit our family and friends and loves spending time at the beach,” Arlene said.

Arlene says that the best thing about being a mother is that now her best friend is her son. She continues to learn from him and feels that she has grown immeasurably as a person. Balancing work and life issues as a single mother have also challenged Arlene.

“Since I’m from the East Coast, one of the major challenges is that our family is more than 2,000 miles away. This makes it difficult to find time for myself, as well as when I need  someone to help when I am sick or have to work overtime or weekends. Having a strong support network to rely on, in the absence of a partner/spouse, is one of the biggest challenges faced by the single adoptive parent,” Arlene noted.

She also mentioned that the Children’s Bureau staff and the support groups the agency offer have been invaluable, both pre- and post-adoption. They encouraged Arlene to fight for services and have helped with connecting her to various resources. Arlene’s adoption journey with Children’s Bureau has inspired her to recommend the agency to others, especially single women and same sex couples. She’s also renewed her foster parent license, but plans to take her time in finding a sibling for Jake.

“I’ve talked with Jake about how I chose him,” Arlene said, “and, when we’re ready, we will choose his little brother together.”


| SC Women | June 14, 2012

By Michelle Tall

I think motivation can come in waves. I think you can be pushed into the desire to succeed just as often as you naturally feel the drive to overcome.
Motivation can stem from harsh circumstances, experiences that brutally back you into a corner. Or it can come from inspiration to aspire to something more, something bigger than yourself.
And so, which one pushes you forward just that much further? Which one makes you stronger and maybe a little bit wiser? Maybe the answer is both. But right now, in this moment of my life, I am coming back from being beaten down.
When you find yourself in a place you never thought you would be, broken and bruised, hurting and wounded, you wonder how you let it happen. At what point did you allow another person to believe that it was okay to treat you so poorly? When did everything go from fun and comfortable to this life, one that is so disastrously unrecognizable?
And so, when I finally opened my eyes and saw myself crouched into the furthest corner of a room that was caving in on me, I looked up and saw an innocent child with unconditional love just waiting to be wrapped in his mother’s arms.
“At the moment of surrender,
Of vision over visibility.”
“Moment of Surrender”
That was the day I kicked and clawed and crawled and climbed my way out of that corner, taking my little boy’s hand in mine, intent on setting out to create our own happily ever after. I began to heal when I focused on my son’s beautiful smile.
Motivation came to me from living in the dark to promising my child a life of living in the light. I stumble and fall down every now and then, but I haven’t let go of his hand and I never will. Not ever again will I allow anything or anyone to break this mother’s connection to the joy of her child that she carries with her everyday within her heart.
And this motivation grows stronger and brighter as it changes into inspiration. An inspiration that pushes me higher and higher to places more bright and glorious than I ever dreamed possible.
Motivation changed my life and I can recognize it now more than I did before. And I embrace it and ride it through the journey of motherhood with my child by my side.
This entry was posted in Along the Way – Michelle Tall

Life After Him, A Single Parent Story

| SC Women | June 7, 2012

By Jill Kola-Ines

“Honey, can you…” Oh yeah, you’re gone. No matter. I can figure this out myself. Let’s see, I plug this in there and this part in here and load this in there. Okay, now what? No, I don’t want to burn the CD, just download it. How can I save it? Oh bother. Okay, call Fisher Price. Oh, I want to rip the CD! Who knew?!
There’s so much to learn.
He used to take care of all the electronics, light bulbs, car stuff, etc. Well, there are other people’s husbands, my dad, and people to hire to fix stuff or I’ll just have to do it myself.
It’s been a very empowering journey.
Who knew I could work, make dinner, check homework, do bath, and read AND get her to bed all by myself?  When he was working that second job I got some practice at it. But that’s where he met “her.” Oh whatever, better things are on the way. I’m still attractive. Okay, I’m 100 pounds overweight, but still prettier than her.
I will NOT rebound this time. I will wait patiently for Mr. Right. God will bring him when I’m ready (it gives me more time to work on me). This rollercoaster has some hard turns and drops, but it’s a helluva ride. Things I didn’t think I could do, I’m doing, things like budgeting and doing all the bills myself… again (it’s been 20 years since I’ve done that).
I don’t give myself enough credit. You get so used to counting on someone else to take care of things, you forget you could do it yourself. Some days, like tonight though, I wish I could run away.
Thank God for my mother. She diffuses the situation and says all the right things. She’s been my rock. I used to call her five times a day when he first said it was over. Now I’m down to one or two. Ok, maybe three sometimes, but we’re on the same page.
Some people just don’t get it. They want to help you but don’t know how. They say typical things like, “Well, there’s other fish in the sea,” or “Would you really want him back after what he’s done?” I never thought I would (want him back), but when it happens to you, it’s different. I put in so much effort, and he was my best friend and my baby’s dad. It was supposed to be forever. Now what?
Well, you start taking classes. I went to church and took Divorce Care. Then I sent my daughter. I’m not totally over this, but I’m getting through it one day at a time, one holiday at a time, one email at a time.
It doesn’t hurt as much anymore and sometimes when I remember the bad stuff, I’m relieved I’m not in that relationship anymore.
Jill Kola-Ines is a single parent at Single Mothers Outreach in Santa Clarita, CA.


| SC Women | June 4, 2012

Local voice teacher Rene Urbanovich makes it clear that the very existence of her children brings her to the core of her creative center. Likewise, the release of her latest book, “Maternallyours,” underscores the point that your children don’t have to be your last birthing experience.

Its pages of poetry and journal entries (that came down a two-decade long birth canal themselves), reflect a mom’s thoughts and feelings in real time, traveling with her as she navigates the journey of motherhood. Like the concept implied by the compound spelling of the title, “Maternallyours”  (is it “yours” or “ours”?), Urbanovich seeks to connect her maternal experience with that of the reader. When it comes to honesty and depth, this multi-talented, multi-tasking mom from Saugus really delivers.

Maternallyours is available from Amazon.com, from The Living Room Emporium in Canyon Country and  from www.maternallyours.com.

You Went Where?!? Laughter for the Single Parent’s Soul

| SC Women | June 1, 2012

By Melanie Lightbourne-Rowe

Getting a day off from work is both a blessing as well as a curse. We love it because it is time away from the mundane drill and kill of the work week. We despise it because we run around completing errand after errand until we realize that we are more burnt out being off work than being present. Why is that?
I must add insult to injury by stating that a few years ago, my children attended school in the same area where we reside. It was a great way for them to attend school with the children in our neighborhood as well as ride the school bus (yes, for them that is a treat). After a year of paying for the bus, a sitter and a cell phone for emergencies, I decided it would be best to move them into the area where I worked. Now that they share the same schedule as I do, they are also at home when I have those breaks. Yay.
Today, I ran more errands than I had completed in a month’s time, making sure to write down every single stop in an organized fashion. Have you seen gas prices lately? I didn’t even want to chance making a U-turn because I had forgotten something or done it out of order. We went to the bank, got haircuts, to the post office, to Wal-Mart, to the grocery store, to the neighborhood car wash, to the Costco warehouse and a sporting goods store.
I stopped at Dick’s Sporting Goods to see about a megaphone for my Leadership class. I got out of the car, left the boys to watch their movie, and went inside. After learning they didn’t carry the item, I walked back to my car, ready for the next stop. Behind me, I could hear the boys whispering.
“No, you ask her!” my eldest said.
“Ok, fine then!” his brother agreed. “Mom? Why are you going into a store like that?”
“A store like what?” I asked.
“Uhhh,” he continued. “That one?” He pointed at the store I had just left.
“I had to get a megaphone. What do you mean? What’s wrong with that store?”
“Mom. It is a nasty store!” he screamed.
The youngest was concerned for his reputation. “I hope none of my friends saw me,” he said.
Laughing, I assured him that coming out of a sporting goods store would hardly be reason for them to be ridiculed.
Upon arriving home, my eldest went outside for about an hour and came back home exhausted from playing football.
“Mom, guess what?” he started. “I saw a friend of mine just now and he had a new soccer ball.”
“That’s nice,” I said. I don’t get excited over a new ball.
“I asked him where he got it ‘cause it looked kinda cool. He got it from that nasty place! Can we go back so I can get one too?”
Laugh, people. It‘s good for the soul!
Melanie Lightbourne-Rowe is a single parent at Single Mothers Outreach in Santa Clarita and hosts a blog: laughterforthesoul.com.

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