The Santa Clarita Valley Committee on Aging gathered with contributors, volunteers and members of the public to celebrate the opening of Bella Vida, the new senior center, at their Annual Assembly Thursday evening.
“Tonight is really a bit of celebration,” said Kevin MacDonald, executive director for Bella Vida. “We believe one time a year we need to stop, reflect and honor a few people.”
The reception, held in Bella Vida’s courtyard, began with music by John Swinford, followed by an awards program, which highlighted some of the volunteers and contributors who have been impactful in making the new center a success, and all three of the volunteers who received the Special Volunteer Award exemplified that.
Bingo coordinators Ruby and Ray Mitchell together raised $32,000 for the center, according to Robin Clough, volunteers and recreation coordinator, while Dale Bushka contributes 90 hours every month to the center’s nutrition department, said Joanna Vallelunga, director of food services.
Bushka not only shows up at 5:30 a.m. each morning to pack meals, he also delivers them, Vallelunga added. Each day, volunteers write messages, like “have a nice day” or “enjoy your meal,” and draw on the brown paper bags they pack the lunches in, and while that may seem insignificant, it is one of the things the seniors look forward to the most, Buska said.
“And how insignificant that bag was, but how much it means to everybody,” Bushka added. “To me, it’s the insignificant stuff we do that matters.”
The committee also took the time to recognize outgoing president Peggy Rasmussen, who then received various certificates of recognition from local officials.
“It is often said that you judge a community not by how they keep their community safe, but how they treat those among them with the greatest need,” said Assemblywoman Christy Smith, D-Santa Clarita. “Here in Santa Clarita that means that every senior who needs it gets some kind of touch every day … A big part of the motivating factor that got everyone here to this beautiful new facility and allows our services to continue to expand on behalf of all of our seniors has been the vision, tenacity, dedication, passion and leadership of Peggy Rasmussen.”
Rasmussen and MacDonald then addressed the growth of the center, and said the center used to serve approximately 150 meals per day on average at their old location, and just last Friday, they served 291 meals, along with an additional 600 people who have signed forms to have meals at the center.
“Those numbers depict the fact that we had said right from the beginning that this thing is just going to grow like crazy,” Rasmussen said. “Well we did not expect it to grow this crazy, but we’re so happy that it is. The seniors are very happy, we’ve expanded in our services, but most importantly we’ve expanded and reached more of the senior population. And I’m absolutely ecstatic about that growth.”
The program concluded with the swearing in of the new board of directors, who will begin their term for the 43rd year of the committee on July 1.
“Although a firm financial footing is probably my No. 1 mandate, we can’t be stagnant, we can’t lose sight of the fact that we need to take advantage of any growth opportunities that come out way,” said the new president Elizabeth Hopp. “Keeping in mind always, the mission of the organization, which is to promote quality of life for seniors.”