Coaliton recognized at 12th annual Newsmaker Awards ceremony honoring Randy Wicks.
By Stephen K. Peeples
Signal Online Editor
The Santa Clarita Valley Disaster Coalition was named "Organization of the Year" at the SCV Press Club's 12th annual Newsmaker Awards ceremony, sponsored and hosted by The Signal Friday, Feb. 29 at the Hyatt Valencia.
The annual Newsmaker Awards is a fundraiser presented by the non-profit SCV Press Club, and recognizes the movers and shakers who get things done, challenge the status quo, accomplish major team and personal goals, and selflessly give aid and comfort to other people in need in the SCV.
Carl Goldman, SCV Disaster Coalition chief, accepted the "Organization of the Year" Newsmaker honor on behalf of its all-volunteer membership.
"The Coalition is made up of many of you in the room, so many organizations – it's really a who's-who of Santa Clarita," he said to the roomful of approximately 250 community leaders. "It's just been a pleasure to work with all those folks and to realize we are having a significant impact as we work our way through helping the 27 local families impacted by the wildfires last fall. The Coalition's helping to make sure (those families) get back into their homes."
Later, Goldman expressed surprise the Disaster Coalition received the award, and provided some additional details about the organization's ongoing aid to the fire victims.
"There are so many other organizations doing great things for our Valley, and for us to even be nominated in that group is an honor," he said. Other nominees in the Organization of the Year category included the American Cancer Society/SCV, Circle of Hope, LETMESAIL and the SCV Historical Society.
"The Coalition is continuing to work with the families, providing rent money and paying for incidentals," Goldman said. "We are working behind the scenes with member groups including Habitat for Humanity/SFV-SCV to make the rebuilding process easier. We are working on several additional grants to help the families out as their homes begin getting rebuilt.
In addition to the 27 families, Goldman said the Disaster Coalition providing assistance to the Heads Up horse-therapy ranch and the Lombardi family, owners of Lombardi Ranch. Fire severely damaged both properties.
"We are also working with a non-profit called Recovery Services — check them out at www.carehelp.org.
They will be in Santa Clarita in a few weeks to meet with the victims who are rebuilding their homes to assist with insurance problems," he said.
The Disaster Coalition continues to receive donations from private individuals, businesses and grant sources. "We will discuss our plans for further distributions at our March meeting," Goldman said. "The next big need isn't going to hit until building starts happening and we are still months away from that to begin. Meanwhile, we are still assisting with rent and other incidentals for a few of the families."
The SCV Disaster Coalition is an extension of the nonprofit Santa Clarita Valley Committee on Aging Corp., the 501(c)-3 organization whose board of directors operates the Senior Center in Newhall.
"The Committee on Aging and the Senior Center are proud to be an integral part of the Disaster Coalition and serve as the governing agency that ensures help is available to our neighbors in time of need," said Brad Berens, executive director of the corporation.
The Committee on Aging provides the Disaster Coalition's fiduciary duties, accounting protocols, and the professional social workers. "This is our way of giving back to the community and acting as a conduit for community action," Berens said.
"It's great that the SCV Disaster Coalition got the coveted 'Organization of the Year' Newsmaker award," Berens said. "It is well-deserved, and Carl's leadership has made it a great success. As a community, we are innovative and no one else in the county has or is doing such a thing. I know this because I'm currently doing the circuit through the city of Los Angeles and the county of Los Angeles on disaster preparedness for the aging and disabled.
"We are able to do this because our mission at the SCVCOA is broad and encompasses work well beyond our primary focus which is the seniors and the disabled. From an esoteric point of view, I've often thought of the coalition's work as the elders of our community looking out for the community as a whole."
"The SCVCOA board and the Senior Center deserve accolades for helping make the Disaster Coalition possible," Goldman said. "Their caseworkers, provided to the Coalition free of charge, continue to reach out to the fire victims to determine any special needs they may have."
Disaster Coalition History
The Disaster Coalition was founded during the winter of 2004 by a group of local leaders in the private and public sectors in the wake of flooding in Santa Clarita. It was reformed in 2006 through the efforts of Diane Green and Jeri Seratti-Goldman in the wake of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.
Initially, the group's mission was to aid local residents impacted by our flooding, then in 2006, when Katrina hit, to assist individuals and families from Louisiana and Texas who had relocated to the SCV to live with relatives or friends.
The Coalition followed that with its "Flood of Books" drive, collecting tons of books and trucking them to the GulfCoast to help restock the libraries of several elementary schools devastated by the storms.
More recently, the Coalition has collected more than $100,000 in donations to provide as-needed assistance to the nearly two dozen SCV families whose homes were damaged or destroyed during the October 2007 wildfires.
Among the Coalition's founding members are KHTS-AM 1220 radio, the city of Santa Clarita, College of the Canyons, the SCV Sheriff's Station, Los Angeles County, the L.A. County Fire Department, Valencia Acura, the SCV Chamber of Commerce, the SCV Committee on Aging/SCV Senior Center, the local chapter of the American Red Cross, the SCV Interfaith Council, SONSHINE Christian Church, the Sulphur Springs School District, Realtor Frank Ball, Santa Clarita Web Services, and The Signal.
Since then additional members have been added including Habitat For Humanity, L.A. County Supervisor Michael Antonovich, Newhall Land, Henry Mayo Newhall Memorial Hospital, Lockheed Federal Credit Union, Sand Canyon Homeowners Association, Union Bank, and VIA (Valley Industrial Association).
The Coalition's next meeting is 3:30 p.m. Thursday, March 27 at the Senior Center, 22900 Market Street, Newhall91321.
For more information about the SCV Disaster Coalition, visit www.scvcoalition.com.
Featuring a live auction plus a banquet and awards ceremony, the SCV Press Club's Newsmaker event serves as the primary annual fundraiser for the Randy Wicks Memorial First Amendment Scholarship fund.
The fund awards cash grants to graduating local high school seniors and College of the Canyons students who plan to pursue an education related to the First Amendment and the free dissemination of information.
The program is named in memory of Wicks, the celebrated editorial cartoonist for The Signal who died of a heart attack in 1996 at age 41.
The SCV Press Club created the Newsmaker Awards as the primary annual fundraiser, with the first ceremony held in 1997.
"Organization of the Year" is one of nine Newsmaker categories. Five nominees for each category are chosen by the SCV Press Club's Newsmaker committee, which for the 2007 awards numbered 18 local journalists and community leaders.
For more information about the SCV Press Club and the Randy Wicks Memorial First Amendment Scholarship fund, which accepts tax-deductible donations throughout the year, visit www.scvpressclub.org.
For Randy Wicks' bio and a slideshow of his most memorable work, visit www.scvpressclub.org/History%20and%20Wicks.html.