Circle of Hope dedicates garden and bench to retiring board member

Circle of Hope board members and staff gather with Judy Penman, bottom row second from left, to dedicate a bench and garden to her for her longtime commitment to Circle of Hope and the SCV community. Courtesy of Circle of Hope

When longtime board member Judy Penman announced her retirement and move to Arizona, Circle of Hope, a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting those fighting cancer in Santa Clarita, decided they needed to find a way to honor her.

Staff and fellow board members who have worked with Penman for the more than 12 years she’s been volunteering for the organization thought a tribute garden and bench would be the perfect way to do just that. 

“We were so happy for her that she and Doug were going to retire, but it was a great loss for us,” Executive Director Laura Kirchhoff said. “There’s board members, then there’s Judy,” she added, chuckling. “She was so instrumental in getting the organization where it is today.” 

Kirchhoff said they wanted to find a way for Penman to forever live in Santa Clarita. 

“She loved her garden at home and grew her own veggies, so we thought, how fitting would it be to have Judy’s garden and dedicate this bench to her,” Kirchhoff added. “Everybody coming and going can see her bench, so that’s just how Judy will live on with us here.” 

Penman’s reach did not stop with Circle of Hope, as she was also an integral part of more than 10 local nonprofits, including serving as president of the Zonta Club of Santa Clarita Valley twice, and on the board of directors of the Domestic Violence Center for 15 years with three terms as president. 

Penman was also chosen as the 2008 SCV Woman of the Year, an award that honors those who have given outstanding volunteer service to the community.

A bench and garden were dedicated to Judy Penman to honor her for her longtime commitment to Circle of Hope and the SCV community. Courtesy of Circle of Hope

Pam Ripling, Circle of Hope’s recently retired executive director, contacted Gary Horton, owner of Valencia-based Landscape Development Inc., for advice on how to spruce up the planter in the parking lot at Lyons Center where the nonprofit resides.

“Gary offered more than advice,” Ripling said in a prepared statement. “Within days of our plea for help, the weed-infested, overgrown plot was transformed into a peaceful garden setting, complete with artificial turf, decomposed granite and a shaded bench for our clients to rest on — all free of charge. We are so grateful.” 

Kirchhoff added a plaque that was affixed to the bench, commemorating Penman’s long-standing charitable history. She then had a second plaque made for Penman, so she could “take the garden home with her.” 

“We wanted to do something special, something big, to show Judy how grateful we are for the love and care she’s shown our organization, our clients and the SCV cancer community,” Ripling added.

The bench and garden were unveiled to Penman when she returned to Santa Clarita to celebrate Circle of Hope’s 15th anniversary last month. 

“I am simply overwhelmed,” Penman said. 

For more information about Circle of Hope, visit or call 661-254-5218.

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