Habitat for Humanity San Fernando/Santa Clarita Valleys honored the “Santa Clarita Seven” at the annual Builder’s Ball Gala held Feb. 21 at the Sheraton Universal in Universal City.
Santa Clarita Mayor Laurene Weste presented awards to the seven, all veterans who represent organizations that provide services to veterans in the Santa Clarita or San Fernando Valleys.
The seven veteran organizations and leaders from the SCV recognized were: Dick Jeffries representing Back to the War Zone; RJ Kelly representing the Veterans Advocacy Network; JD Kennedy representing American Legion Post 507; Chuck Morris representing the Traveling Vietnam Wall, Friendly Valley Veterans Club; Bill Reynolds representing the 9th Infantry Division, Charlie Company and Renard Thomas representing College of the Canyons Veterans Affairs Department.
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Veteran organizations and leaders from the SFV recognized were: Charlie Hooker representing the Military Order of World Wars, San Fernando Valley and Omar Bradley Chapters and Nicolas Montaño representing the Chatsworth Kiwanis.
“I am humbled to be in the presence of these amazing men,” said Weste as she presented each man with a certificate of recognition and a trophy. “These men represent the best of the best of Santa Clarita.”
Jeffery served as a combat sniper and squad leader for the United States Marine Corps in Vietnam. He currently works with Back to the War Zone to help return American combat veterans back to their former areas of combat operations as well as provide first time tours to Washington D.C. to visit the National War Memorials for the purpose of “healing the silent wounds of combat.”
Kelly also served in the United States Marine Corps in Vietnam. He was injured in Vietnam and received the Purple Heart. He is currently active in several veteran-related organizations and is the president and founder of the Veterans Advocacy Network.
Kennedy served in the United States Marine Corps in Operation Iraqi Freedom I, II and IX. He currently is the Commander of the American Legion Post 507 in Newhall.
Lentini served in the United States Army in Korea from 1960-1962 in the Demilitarized Zone. He is currently working with SCV Rotary and Santa Clarita Elks Lodge Veteran Committee to assist with funding through the Harry Bell Memorial Fund for the SCV Habitat for Heroes Enriched Neighborhood currently being constructed on Centre Pointe Parkway in Santa Clarita.
Morris served in the United State Army in the Korean Conflict. As president of the Friendly Valley Veterans Club, Morris spearheaded the effort to bring the largest traveling Vietnam Memorial Wall to Santa Clarita. The event, held in September, attracted thousands to the Valencia Westfield Town Center to view the Wall.
Reynolds served in the United States Army in the Vietnam War. He founded the website 9thinfantrydivision.com to remember the fallen soldiers, coordinate reunions and provide other services to the members of the 9th Infantry Division, Charlie Company.
Thomas served in the California Army National Guard as well as the United States Army in Operation Iraqi Freedom IV, Army Reserve and Army National Guard. He is currently the director of the Re-Entry Programs and Veterans Affairs Department at College of the Canyons.
The Santa Clarita Seven received a standing ovation after each man was introduced and presented his awards.
The annual Builder’s Ball Gala is a fundraiser for Habitat for Humanity San Fernando/Santa Clarita Valleys.
In the SCV Habitat for Humanity San Fernando/Santa Clarita Valleys is building 87 veteran homes in an enriched neighborhood on 23 acres off Centre Pointe Parkway. The neighborhood will include 15 acres open space, community gardens and community playgrounds.
Donna Deutchman, CEO of Habitat for Humanity San Fernando/Santa Clarita Valleys, said the event was sold out at 380 attendees.
“The best thing about tonight’s event is that we’re going to have a full house of people who are going to hear directly from the veterans about their lives, their struggles and their amazing courage,” she said.
Richard Doss, chairman of the board of directors of Habitat for Humanity San Fernando/Santa Clarita Valleys, said he was impressed by the support for the Enriched Neighborhood in the SCV.
“The Santa Clarita Valley has come through in ways no one could have imagined,” Doss said. “It’s really enlightening to see the enthusiasm everyone in the community has for the project, and that’s from the top down.”
Appearing at the Builder’s Ball Gala was Theresa Gunn, deputy secretary, farm and home loans, California Department of Veterans Affairs.
Gunn said she was very excited by the Enriched Neighborhood project.
“This is the best thing for vets,” Gunn said. “It’s very unique and it’s the way we should be building homes for lower income individuals. This is the way to help them be successful.”
The event, chaired by Doreen Shine, also featured Gary Bryan as the emcee. Bryan is the host of the KRTH Morning Show.
Entertainment was offered by The Valley Harmony Singers who performed the theme songs from each branch of the United States military including: “Anchors Aweigh,” “The Marine Corps Hymn,” “The Army Goes Rolling Along,” “Off We Go, Into the Wild Blue Yonder” and “Semper Paratus.”
The fundraising portion of the event was headed up by Jim Nye, “The Benefit Auction Guy,” who worked the room to bring in the highest bids for the five live auction items and the “Raise the Paddle” donation request.
Special check presentations to Habitat from Citibank Foundation and Citibank Group totaled $125,000.
Habitat for Humanity San Fernando/Santa Clarita Valleys Hammer of Hope was presented to The Home Depot Foundation which has committed $80 million over five years and the sweat equity of thousands of volunteers to “ensure every veteran has a safe place to call home.”
Habitat for Humanity San Fernando/Santa Clarita Valleys will host the “We Build Women’s Empowerment Build” 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, May 10. The event will offer volunteers the opportunity to assist at the Santa Clarita Habitat for Heroes Enriched Neighborhood build site. The $35 registration fee includes a t-shirt, pink hard hat, breakfast and lunch. For more information visit humanityca.org/ourevents or call Brittany Engh 818-884-8808.
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Source: Santa Clarita News