Editor’s Note: I became acquainted with Stephanie Vendig during my tenure on the board of the Silver Lake Neighborhood Council. Stephanie, along with her pal Bea Gold have been on the forefront of issues affecting Silver Lake’s senior communities, advocating and promoting the Silver Lake Seniors Club (since 2006, the Griffith Park Adult Community Club). As president of the club, I asked Stephanie to tell us her story, as a way of introducing our readers to this very special community servant, as well as spreading the word about the club.
As the president of Griffith Park Adult Community Club, supporting the Griffith Park Adult Community Center (GPACC) and its activities for the 50+ population, I wondered how I got to this place of advocacy. Upon reflection, I believe it is no accident that I found this niche. All of my life experiences pointed me in a direction that had a theme of serving community, My life started in Bakersfield in 1936, and I left at 18 years old to go away to college. However, both of my parents’ families were Los Angeles people beginning in 1923 around the Silver Lake and Hollywood areas. My grandparents were part of the mass immigration in the early 1900’s of East European Jews into New York and into Canada. My father became an optometrist, but starting a practice during the depression was difficult in L.A. He answered an ad to open a practice in the back of a jewelry store in Bakersfield. Thus, my parents moved there in 1935. They became very community-minded, joining organizations that helped the community. My consciousness- raising about serving community began with them and their experiences. My college education was varied, completing a BA from UC Berkeley in 1959. In addition to credentials to teach elementary school and the physically handicapped I got a Master’s degree in Early Childhood Education from Cal State, Northridge. Married life started in 1959, and lasted 42 years. My husband, Fred, died in 2001 after an 8-year struggle with bone marrow failure. In 1966, we bought a house in Silver Lake, where we raised our two children David and Joshua. I still live in the same house. David continues to live in Silver Lake raising his three children, and Joshua and his family of two young children live in Bishop. I started teaching in San Francisco in 1961, and when I moved to Los Angeles I began teaching the physically handicapped in 1968. My teaching experience has always been with children who were disadvantaged or had special needs in a variety of ways, so I learned from those children about barriers and the capacity to overcome when the environment supported their efforts. I became involved with LAUSD Special Education as a consultant under the directorship of Bea Gold (previously honored in Who’s Who in Silver Lake). Together, we developed programs serving young children with special needs and training special education teachers. From this experience I learned to help adults learn new skills and to create programs from inception through implementation. In 1980, I left the school district for the nonprofit world and the world of adolescents. I joined the staff of the Youth and Family Center, a social service agency that provided services for pregnant and parenting teens. The focus was on case management, and I was hired to create an infant and toddler program for the children of teen-age parents and to provide parent education. I became part of the management team, and in 1996, I retired from the agency as Interim Executive Director. From this experience, I picked up skills of collaboration with a variety of public institutions and organizations in order to make sure that these adolescents could overcome obstacles, as they attempt to complete their education and become good parents. I retired at age 60 to tend to the needs of my husband as he battled his illness. In 2000, I heard there was going to be a meeting at the Silver Lake Recreation Center to discuss with the Facility Director activities for seniors. Thirty-one of us showed up at the urging of Lia LoMedico who gathered signatures from her neighbors. We were told that we had to organize as a club in order to use the facility. I was hooked. My involvement at first followed the needs of my husband. I began a club newsletter that I still do today. My involvement grew as I began to define my life as a single person, after my husband’s death. Three years ago, I began writing a column addressing senior issues for the Los Feliz Ledger, starting a new career in my older years. Today, I feel very privileged to be president of the club and part of an organization that truly represents grass roots community efforts. The club, now with over 670 members, is doing good things on behalf of older adults in our society. I may be the current leader now, but the success of the club is a result of many wonderful people working together for a common goal. I am pleased I have contributed to its success. The Griffith Park Adult Community Center is located at 3203 Riverside Drive in Los Feliz (next door to Friendship Auditorium). Center Hours are Monday through Friday, 8:30 AM until 4:30 PM. The center has a variety of activities including line dancing, creative writing, yoga, guitar, art, table games, and more. A library, a computer lab, and conference room are also available. Delicious, low cost lunches are provided everyday. The club meets monthly on the 3rd Wednesday of the month for lunch and a program including a gourmet potluck in June and December. With a membership ($10/year) you can take advantage of monthly day trips and receive a monthly newsletter. To learn more, please contact the center (323) 644-5579 or email Stephanie Vendig at firstname.lastname@example.org