Members of the Senior Volunteer Patrol (SVP) who work out of the Fallbrook Sheriff’s substation hosted a special Christmas luncheon for their elderly friends Dec. 19 at the Grand Tradition.
The festive gathering brought together YANA (You Are Not Alone) program participants and the SVP members who regularly check on them by either phone or with a home visit.
The YANA program is a free service offered by the SVP for housebound elderly people who live in Bonsall, De Luz, Fallbrook and Rainbow. The program is designed to “offer peace of mind and a sense of security for those who enjoy their independence, but have little or no friends to check on them.”
“We want to keep people living at home independently as long as they can,” said Cindy Roark, a SVP member and one of the coordinators of the Christmas luncheon. “That’s what our YANA service is all about.”
The service is very much appreciated, according to the people who receive the daily phone calls and periodic home visits from SVP members.
“[The YANA program] is so wonderful,” said Gladys (Baker) Soeterik, a delightful lady who was involved in wildlife rescue for 15 years and who – despite being housebound – continues to perform volunteer work by rehabbing birds who have been smuggled into the US from Mexico. “If I’m going to be outside I call them to tell them. Because if they call and you don’t answer the phone, they come right out.”
Soeterik, one of this year’s honorees at the luncheon, said having that safety net is invaluable.
“Oh man, I tell you, this is the greatest little town, Fallbrook,” said Soeterik, who then added that “if anybody is looking for a Lovebird, I have two of them. You know, they sing like wild song birds. I also have two white cockatiels.”
Mary Margaret O’Toole recently moved to Fallbrook and is thrilled to be able to participate in the YANA program. She was also very excited about attending her first YANA Christmas luncheon.
“This is a wonderful, wonderful event,” said O’Toole. “It’s an opportunity to meet all the people that call me. I’m anxious to meet them all because you can hear their voices and recognize them from their voices. And their calling like they do everyday is so rewarding because I know that I’m not alone. So it’s just wonderful, and then to do this, it’s quite grand.”
Jeff Hubbert, who was also saluted at the luncheon, said of YANA program, “I like it because it’s very helpful, because four years ago I almost died, so it’s nice to have somebody check up on me once in awhile.”
Joe Fahey, one of the founding members of the Fallbrook SVP, was recognized at the luncheon, which he attended with wife, Audie, who is housebound. Fahey helped start the Fallbrook SVP in 1995 and continues to serve his community, hitting the streets every Wednesday.
“We do this just to be helpful, we don’t do this to try to get acclaim or anything,” said the humble Fahey. “It’s a two-way street because I need the help because I take care of Audie 24 hours a day. By getting out on Wednesdays and having a caretaker take care of her, it helps me do something that breaks up the monotony.”
When asked about being a founding member of the Fallbrook SVP, Fahey, 88, responded, “I’m the only original left.”
This was the sixth Christmas luncheon that the SVP has put on for the YANA participants and Fahey and his wife have attended all of them.
“Oh, this is a beautiful event,” said Fahey.
Luncheon attendees were treated to a fine meal from the Grand Tradition kitchen that featured chicken piccata, pork loin roast with berry sauce, fresh mixed vegetables, spinach and strawberry salad, fresh rolls, pies (pecan, apple, and lemon) and cookies as well as tea and coffee.
Forty-four young singers, under the direction of Sandy Kopitzke from Star Theatre Company, entertained the crowd with Christmas songs, and each of the YANA guests went home with a beautiful succulent ornament provided by the Fallbrook Garden Club.
Lt. David Gilmore, commander of the Fallbrook Sheriff’s substation, attended the luncheon and said it speaks volumes about the SVP.
“This event is very heartwarming because these are all neighbors looking out for their neighbor,” said Gilmore. “And you see there’s a broad range of people here – there are some retired military folks here, there are retired teachers, retired doctors, husbands and wives, and they’re all giving back by bringing in the people that they check up on regularly for a wonderful Christmas event. It’s a pleasure to get to witness this and to be a participant.”
Gilmore is a big fan of the YANA program.
“It’s all based in a little bit of love for your neighbor and reaching out to people and making sure they’re OK,” said Gilmore. “It’s something that may get lost in a fast-paced world, but up here in Fallbrook, people are doing it on a regular basis. They’re making sure that folks know that, hey, we’re interested in you and we want you to know there’s always somebody out there you can talk to.”
Roark encourages anyone that knows of a housebound elderly person who is living alone and could benefit from the YANA outreach program to call (760) 451-3145 and leave a message. People can also stop by the sheriff’s office and pick up a YANA request pamphlet.