By Alicia Doyle

The Writer
Specializing in Good News
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Rotary of Simi Sunset helps refurbish YMCA preschool

August 22, 2014 Ventura County Star

SIMI VALLEY, Calif. - Children attending the Simi Valley Family YMCA Preschool at Royal High School will experience a newly refurbished site when school starts, thanks to an effort led by Rotary of Simi Sunset that involved more than 250 volunteer hours and about $700 in donations.

“I hope the children see that we think of them as our newest Simi citizens and their city cares about them,” said Jeanette Hernandez, Rotary of Simi Sunset community service chair.

The work included tearing down and rebuilding a wall that was faded and falling apart, among other renovations.

“Even if the children don’t really look at the wall, they know that something’s been changed — something’s been refurbished for them because people care,” Hernandez said.

A small group of Rotarians primed and painted the wall on a recent Saturday during the final step of the process.

“It’s important to have someone out there helping the community out — especially the kids,” said Mark Dickinson, of Simi Valley, a Rotarian and one of the volunteers.

“The building was starting to get a little bit old, so we wanted to spruce it up for them so they could enjoy their surroundings. ... I’m sure most of these kids are not home after school, so it’s nice to have something nice for them.”

Cindy Belmonte, one of the Rotarians who volunteered, hopes to instill a sense of pride for the kids.

“When things are run down, it’s not a nice environment,” said Belmonte, of Simi Valley. “When everything’s fresh and new, they get so excited.”

Donations for such local efforts are generated from Rotary fundraisers that take place throughout the year, including the Pooch Parade and Gator Run, Belmonte said.

“We take that money and this is what we do with it,” Belmonte said.

The YMCA approached the three Rotary clubs in Simi Valley about 10 years ago about performing makeovers on day care centers in the city, said Chuck Carmichael, a Rotary of Simi Sunset member who’s on the board of the Southeast Ventura County YMCA.

“They got the three Rotary clubs to each take one day care center and do a makeover on it ... That lasted a couple of years, and everyone lost interest except us,” Carmichael said. “So we have continued to champion this project once a year ... which includes any structural renovation.”

The project is one example of the good Rotary does for its community, Carmichael said.

“Very few people will ever feel the touch of Rotary, but there are 30 preschool kids that come here, and they do feel the touch,” Carmichael said.

Everybody at some time in their life needs a little help, Carmichael said.

“The YMCA is a tremendous organization for doing that,” he said.

The recent Rotary effort saved an estimated $4,500 for the Simi Valley Family YMCA, with most of the work performed by general contractor Joe Grossman.

“We hope to provide a nicer place for the kids to come and save the YMCA some money ... so there’s more money to be spent on the good work they’re chartered to do,” Carmichael said.

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