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Village Community Services says ‘Aloha’ with annual fundraiser

SMOKEY POINT — Village Community Services’ annual Taste of Decadence fundraiser adopted a Hawaiian theme this year, but more importantly, the June 26 silent auction, buffet dinner and dessert at the Smokey Point Community Church was intended to serve as “a celebration of the abilities of people with disabilities, and what they bring to the community,” according to Michelle Dietz-Date, resource development manager for VCS.

Dietz-Date helps coordinate the annual fundraisers and she cited three VCS clients as examples of the program’s three goals, on behalf of disabled residents of Marysville, Arlington and Stanwood. Sandy is a middle-aged woman with Down Syndrome who’s a current member of the VCS band, Voices of the Village, and over the course of the past year she’s traveled across the state and sung in front of 5,000 people. Steve is the VCS groundskeeper, who helped set up the Taste of Decadence fundraiser, and he’s a participant in the VCS career planning and placement services, which help disabled people find and keep jobs. And Mary Jo was a founding member of Voices of the Village, whom Dietz-Date described as “a very active, vivacious woman,” before she was hit with early onset Alzheimer’s. Now, May Jo relies upon a wheelchair for mobility and needs assistance to perform everyday tasks that she’d been able to perform independently.

“We’re raising money so that people like Mary Jo can stay living in their own homes, surrounded by the people who know them, from friends and family to dedicated staff,” said Dietz-Date, who noted that the evening’s fundraising goal of $25,000 would also go toward aiding people like Steve in obtaining and retaining jobs, as well as giving people like Sandy a creative outlet to express themselves. “We want them to live as full members of the local community, working and living in their own homes, and living out their dreams.”

One longtime VCS volunteer received posthumous honors during the Taste of Decadence for his work with the group as VCS Board President Art Hutton presented Joan Penewell, widow of Royal Penewell, with a plaque and a notification that with VCS as the inspiration for Royal’s subsequent volunteer work with the group.

“They were in great need of parents to help in the beginning, so we began by painting, cleaning and doing different things at the original Village,” Joan Penewell said. “As time went on, they needed more funds so my husband got involved with trail trots and concerts to raise money for the Village.”

Royal Penewell went on to serve as a member of the VCS Board of Directors for several years, during which time he was involved in the decision to purchase the building that will now bear his name.

“He was very proud of what the Village accomplished to help special needs people,” Joan Penewell said. “He was very committed to children, too, since he was a teacher. He was a loving father, a loving husband and a loving man.”

Janel Rollins is proud of what she’s accomplished through VCS. A 25-year-old with limited mobility, Rollins nonetheless serves as the receptionist for VCS.

“I answer telephones,” Rollins said, smiling broadly. “I like the people I work with. I like my job coach.”

Rollins was similarly enthusiastic and to the point on other subjects, describing the people she’s met through VCS as “nice,” VCS itself as “good” and the Taste of Decadence as “perfect.” Sara Lunsford, Rollins’ case manager through the Soundview Association Group Home, was able to elaborate on these details.

“It’s been great working with Nelly so close,” said Lunsford, who has worked with Rollins since December of last year, and served as her case manager for four months. “It’s awesome to see her come back from work every Tuesday, and every Monday night, how she picks her clothing to go to work, so she looks very professional. She loves going to work.”

Lunsford noted that all of the Soundview Association Group Home clients work through VCS, and she praised the VCS staff as “really nice and understanding.”

Village Community Services is located in Suite 200 on 3210 Smokey Point Blvd. For more information, you can call them at 360-653-7752, ext. 14, or log onto their Web site, at www.villagecommunitysvcs.org.

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