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Young and old celebrate vets

Community: Hart district and Lions Clubs team up to encourage students to dedicate their time to vet

Posted: June 27, 2011 1:55 a.m.
Updated: June 27, 2011 1:55 a.m.
Veterans, from left, Jerry Schwartz, Carl Woerter, and Dick Jeffrey chat at the SCV Senior Center in Newhall on Saturday.  Veterans, from left, Jerry Schwartz, Carl Woerter, and Dick Jeffrey chat at the SCV Senior Center in Newhall on Saturday.
Veterans, from left, Jerry Schwartz, Carl Woerter, and Dick Jeffrey chat at the SCV Senior Center in Newhall on Saturday.

Attendees of all ages received a living history lesson during the veterans celebration held at the Santa Clarita Valley Senior Center in Newhall on Saturday.

Organized by the Santa Clarita and Castaic Lions Clubs, in conjunction with the Hart District advisory council, the event offered local veterans an opportunity to share their military experiences and high school students to volunteer their time.

The Lions Clubs provided a festive feast of hamburgers and hot dogs to the several hundred guests in attendance while various veterans took to the center’s cafeteria stage to share their military memories.

Decked out in a vintage blue and white uniform, complete with jaunty cap, Richard Rowlofs, talked about his time in the Navy while Bobby Stone relayed what it was like to be one of the few female Marines during World War II.

“When I was in, ladies didn’t fight or go overseas. I worked at an aviation encampment in San Diego,” Stone said. “I loved every minute of boot camp. We were tough, no doubt. It was breakfast, then a drill, then class time, then a drill, then lunch, followed by a drill. We drilled all day long.”

Vietnam war veteran Dick Jeffrey, of Valencia, prompted cries of “USA, USA,” after delivering an impassioned speech about his feelings on military service.

“I wasn’t seeking conflict. I served to defend America’s interests, principles, borders and way of life. I did this no matter how fierce the foe or how great the odds,” Jeffrey said. “All I’ve ever asked for is your steadfast support during battle and your respect when I return home.”

Jackie Updegraft, 20, of Valencia, and a volunteer at the event, was intrigued by the speakers.

“I have a friend in the Army and to hear so many generations of people who have gone through military services, to fight for our country and our freedom, is definitely eye-opening,” she said. “I don’t think I could have done it. I would be terrified.”

Updegraft’s sister Alex, 19, a student at College of the Canyons, agreed.

“These seniors have so much strength;, it’s inspiring,” Alex Updegraft said. “Learning their stories, about the things they have been through, is really great.”

For Donna Yantis of Newhall, the speeches brought back many memories. As a teenager, Yantis volunteered her time from 1948 to 1954 as a dancer for USO-style entertainment programs offered at California military bases.

“It’s so important to honor our veterans,” Yantis said. “They did the hard stuff to make sure our country was safe. I did the fun stuff to support them.”

The veterans celebration was the second such effort created by the three organizations, according to Robin Clough, director of recreation and volunteers at the center.

The Lions Clubs and Hart District advisory council originally came together in November 2010 to offer students a way to volunteer their time, which is often mandated by schools, by serving a holiday meal to the seniors at the center.

“We had such a success at Thanksgiving, we wanted to see how we could continue,” Clough said. “We brainstormed ways to get students and seniors together to learn from one another and it seemed right to have a veteran’s event around the fourth of July.”

More events are being planned for 2011 and 2012, noted Sue Updegraft, the Hart District advisory council member who spearheaded the Thanksgiving and veterans celebration events. An “Adopt a Senior” mentorship program is also in the works.

Currently, there are 100 Hart District high school students signed up to continue with the programs.

“Our goal is to get schools to work together, to pair students with seniors. They can really learn from one another,” Sue Updegraft said. “A lot of history has been lived through our seniors. It’s lost history that students don’t get through books or classrooms. The one-on-one interaction makes it real, and that’s huge for these kids.”

It’s also important for the community at large, noted Castaic Lions Club member Flo Lawrence.

“We should do this a lot more often. Look around, these folks are having the time of their life,” Lawrence said. “We all end up this age. By helping out here, now, it’s like making an investment in me in 20 years.”

The Santa Clarita Valley Senior Center is located at 22900 Market St., Newhall. For more information, call (661) 259-9444.


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