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  • Leadership Santa Maria Valley Learns About Santa Maria Valley’s Community of Service

    Bottom line: The care of people requires the work and dedication of caring people.  This principle was exemplified during the Health and Human Services (HHS) topic day hosted by Leadership Santa Maria Valley on January 10, 2020.  The organizers of the day were Angie Hernandez, Michael Nash, Patricia Horta, Yuliana Nelson, and Steve Williams; along with advisors Frank Mejia, Judith Monte, and Selena Fierro.  The committee arranged for the class of twenty future city leaders to visit Marian Hospital, Good Samaritan Services, and VTC Enterprises.  The leaders who educated and guided us at the respective locations were Dr. Ketelaar, Kirsten Cahoon, and Erika Weber.  Our mission for the day was to bring into focus the problems, solutions, and goals of organizations that provide for mental wellness and elderly care within our community.   A great leadership speaker named Billy Mitchell led the day by speaking about work/life balance.  Throughout the day we learned how all three locations provide services related to our topic mission; but we also learned that they often collaborate to achieve their common objectives.  With that mind, this article will focus on our visit to VTC Enterprises.

    We met at the VTC Enterprises A Street Café and were provided a guided tour by non other than Erika Weber, the Chamber of Commerce 2019 Ambassador of the Year!  We were most impressed with her engaged interactions with the developmentally challenged people serviced by the center.  Ericka’s tour was followed by a sit-down discussion with Judge Rogelio Flores and Amy Lopez from the Drug Court.  Amy pointed out that the most prevalent drugs used in our area are methamphetamines and opioids, the most popular being heroin.  Judge Flores realized early in his career that drug abuse and mental wellness issues were not suited to the traditional mores of court litigation. 

    In these cases, the perpetrator always losses because the underlying issue is not properly addressed.  Judge Flores and Amy took ownership of the problem by helping to create and implement the Veteran’s Treatment Court in Santa Maria.  They’ve also collaborated with Mr. Cary Gray, LSMV Board member, in providing homes for veterans in recovery.  The impacts of Judge Flores’ programs were not lost on our class.  Two members took the opportunity to expressly thank the judge regarding how his programs helped their family members recover from drug abuse.  

    Our final speaker, Joyce Ellen Lippman from the Area Agency on Aging, pointed out that the most expensive phase of human life is not only the formative years; but also toward the end of life.  She stated the three most common problems of the elderly community are financial, housing, and loneliness. Unlike many other states, senior care facilities are not subsidized by the state of California, so Joyce often refers clients out of state to receive affordable care.  By the end of the day, our class was able to realize how each leader we met exemplified almost selfless devotion to their mission.  They all shared the common trait of being motivated by the slightest glimmers of success from the community members they serve. 

    That’s enough about what I thought.  What did other leadership 2020 class members think?  For Emily Kitts, the VTC tour was her favorite.  She said, “You’re able to see what our town can provide and how much purpose they give people with disabilities.  They want just as much purpose and want to stay busy like we do.  Now they have an amazing outlet for that purpose.”   Manny Fajardo Jr said, “I learned a lot about what is available in our city, so it has been very enlightening for me.” He was most enlightened by the Good Samaritan.  He said that “the amount of space provided for a diversity of people is very important and needed, and I’m glad to see we have something that big here.”  Daniel Rubio said he thought Judge Flores and Amy Lopez were great speakers for their topic.  He said he knew of Judge Flores years ago, so…”It was a great opportunity to listen to what he’s done and services he’s brought to our city and county throughout the years.  His passion made it easier to bring those programs here for people in need… to get the tools and people available to help them.”  

    Finally, Yoshi Jimenez’s favorite part of the day was the leadership speaker, Billy Mitchell.  She said, “He talked about bringing both your heart and mind to work.  There is no work/life balance…  work is life and life is work, they’re that inseparable.”