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Community Center set to celebrate 60th anniversary

September 24, 2009|By Megan O’Neil

When ceramics instructor Helen Jean Taylor launched the ceramics program at the Community Center of La Cañada Flintridge in June of 1966, she had only a handful of students. More than 43 years later, Taylor’s program attracts hundreds of participants including young children, working professionals and senior citizens.

“It is a place for people to come to relax, to have fun and to learn something,” Taylor said. “There are lots of reasons people come and they are all different because it is a personal thing. There are whole families there. I have parents who come to me and say ‘I don’t know if you remember, but I was here when I was a kid, and here is my kid.”

Taylor will be among the dozens of longtime instructors, community members and patrons who will gather on Oct. 3 to celebrate the Community Center’s 60th birthday. The celebration will take place in conjunction with the center’s ninth annual Fall Fiesta, and the event will include a Mexican-themed dinner complete with salsa music and a live auction. There will be a multimedia presentation with photographs and video spanning the center’s 60 years.

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Each year, the center gives out the “Smitty Award,” named for one of the center’s longtime directors, Gilbert Smith. This year, the award is being presented to La Cañada residents Neal and Molly Brockmeyer. The Brockmeyers met in kindergarten at La Cañada Elementary School and were among the wave of youth to frequent the center in the early 1950s.

Last year, the Fall Fiesta fundraiser raised approximately $21,000, executive director Megan Nordvedt said, and organizers hope to match the amount this year. Tickets for the dinner are $100.

The Community Center, originally called The Youth House, was built in 1949 by volunteer residents who envisioned the facility as a place where young teenagers could spend their free time. The center was the site of many school dances, neighborhood association events, softball games and art shows, Nordvedt said.

“In 1949, our beloved center, which was built by dedicated volunteers, opened its doors and began its legacy as The Youth House,” Nordvedt said. “Since then, our mission to serve youth has expanded to include adults, seniors and families in the surrounding communities.”

Programming at the center now includes dozens of classes such as Spanish, tennis, dance, mommy and me art, self defense, first aid and tai chi, among others, for every age group.

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