2017-06-16 / Neighbors

Fond farewell

Senior center dynamo retiring after 16 years
By Alicia Doyle
Special to the Acorn

LOVED—At top, Laurie Dickinson finds humor in one of the many tributes she was given during her farewell party at the Simi Valley Senior Center June 12. Dickinson has been the senior services manager for 10 years. Above, Ken Sinn of Simi Valley shares a laugh with Dickinson at the event. LOVED—At top, Laurie Dickinson finds humor in one of the many tributes she was given during her farewell party at the Simi Valley Senior Center June 12. Dickinson has been the senior services manager for 10 years. Above, Ken Sinn of Simi Valley shares a laugh with Dickinson at the event. After serving the City of Simi Valley for 16 years, including a decade at the helm of the Simi Valley Senior Center, Laurie Dickinson is about to clock out for the last time.

Dickinson, 60, is retiring June 30 and will soon move to Texas, where she plans to spend time with her four grandchildren, go horseback riding more often and possibly do some substitute teaching.

“I am open to whatever comes my way,” said the longtime city staffer, who leaves for Texas July 5 with her husband, Mark. The pair will move to a house they purchased in Lake Kiowa, Texas.

“My dad has passed away and my mom lives in Hawaii, but for many years we would bring my kids to the lake and I have wonderful memories,” she said. “I want to provide that for my grandkids.”


Photos by BOBBY CURTIS/Acorn Newspapers Photos by BOBBY CURTIS/Acorn Newspapers On June 12, the Simi Valley Senior Center hosted a retirement party for Dickinson. Several dozen seniors were in attendance, as were Mayor Pro Tem Mike Judge, Simi Valley Police Chief David Livingstone and other local dignitaries.

Mayor Bob Huber presented the outgoing senior services manager with a certificate of recognition on behalf of the city.

“When I heard she was going to be retiring, my heart sunk,” Huber said to party-goers before presenting the certificate.

“We’re going to miss you,” he said, directing his comments to Dickinson.

“You’ve given your heart and your soul to the city.”

‘Young at heart’

As head of the Simi Valley Senior Center for the past 10 years, Dickinson has overseen many projects that have benefited the community served.

She joined the center when the previous manager took leave and city officials asked Dickinson, who was working as a senior management analyst at the time, to step in temporarily.

In the fall of 2007, she became the permanent senior services manager.

“They had just completed the expansion and I saw so much potential to make it a vibrant, fun place for older adults to meet people and stay active—and that is exactly what has happened,” she said.

Raquel Wirth, senior center secretary, said Dickinson was instrumental in adding three new Meals on Wheels routes to the city.

The program delivers meals to those who are unable to purchase or prepare their own food.

Sharon McCann, chair of the Simi Valley Council on Aging, praised Dickinson for bringing “a younger attitude” to the senior center.

“The senior center is not just for old people,” McCann said. “We’re young, too. We’re young at heart, so that’s what she’s brought—she’s young at heart.”

Under Dickinson’s leadership, the center launched kickboxing classes for seniors and technology classes that help older adults with tasks like navigating Facebook and mastering their cellphones.

“The center has evolved as a real resource for older adults and helps many bridge the gap into retirement,” Dickinson said.

‘Irreplaceable’

Over the next few months, the city will be recruiting for a new senior services manager.

Claudia Hapip, assistant senior services manager, has worked with Dickinson for 11 years.

“She’s really irreplaceable—her energy level, her commitment, her compassion for seniors,” Hapip said. “We’re all going to miss Laurie. I am in particular . . . she’s been a wonderful manager to me and I’m very sad to see her go.”

City Manager Eric Levitt said Dickinson has been “a very special employee.”

“And a very special person, which is even more important to everyone here,” Levitt said at the June 12 party. “I’ve always valued everything she’s had to say and her opinions. She’s going to be, as everyone here knows, sadly missed.”

Looking back on her tenure, Dickinson said she’s learned many life lessons that she will carry on through retirement.

“A relationship of many years is so worth working at. Things don’t make you happy, people do. The better you treat others, the happier you will be,” she said.

“Eat chocolate. Doctors don’t know everything. Dance, even if it is in a wheelchair.”

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