The gala is held every other year to raise funds for programs to support children dealing with emotional and mental health challenges. This year was extra special as Las Candelas is celebrating its 60th anniversary.
Those honored were Diane Johnson, who served 46 years; Fran Buchanan, 45 years; and Merle Hollywood, who passed away a month ago, and served 48 years. Hollywood was represented at the event by her daughter, Mary Ashford.
Today the 40 members visit the youngsters at Hillsides Education Center and Hathaway-Sycamores Family and Child Services. They take them on field trips, teach life skills, bring vocational speakers to the campuses and provide a monthly store where youths purchase items by exchanging their “good conduct” points.
In the early years, Las Candelas members made monthly visits to Camarillo State Hospital to visit and provide activities for the children.
Johnson remembers one child named Steve who made a stuffed animal just for her, and it had a special message inside.
“I called my little stuffed animal ‘Steve,' and he was a part of our family for many years,” she said. “We held barbecues in the spring and kite-flying days. We loved seeing the children's eyes light up when we came.”
Buchanan remembers one boy named Henry who would always tell her, “You make me happy when you come here!”
--JOYCE RUDOLPH can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.