Cherishing all that it had to offer, the South Pasadena Senior Center once felt as comfortable as an old shoe for Harold and Alice Mgrublian, frequent visitors to the place that helped significantly to enriching their lives over the years.
A one-stop shop for a healthy lifestyle, the South Pasadena couple took full advantage of its many services and activities offered to older adults.
“My father was very social and enjoyed attending the special event lunches to have a unique meal and interact with his peers,” remembers their daughter, Diane, recalling what the often bustling center meant to her parents. “He also enjoyed the health fairs and being able to get his flu shot there.”
Her mother “was thrilled with being able to get daily lunches delivered to their home,” she added, recalling the days when the city’s Meals-on-Wheels program would drop off meals throughout the week. “After cooking for her family for over 50 years, having someone else cook for her made her very happy.”
Diane and her brother, David, won’t soon forget the impact the local senior center made on the life of their parents, tremendously grateful for what it did for them. In their memory – Harold passing away in 2019 and Alice in 2022 – they have generously donated $220,000 to the Senior Citizens’ Foundation of South Pasadena in recent years.
The Foundation was created in 2006 for the sole purpose of giving monetary support to the South Pasadena Senior Center, and Diane and David are glad to be among those who support it.
“We love the senior center for what it did for our parents and the fact that we could relax and know others outside the family cared about them,” said Diane with input from her brother. “Living in South Pasadena, makes me hope that I will be able to stay in the community and have the support that my parents had as I age.”
Their parents found enjoyment and assistance at the daytime getaway in a variety of ways, noted Diane, which allowed them to age gracefully while remaining in their South Pasadena home into their 90s.
“I believe the actual services were only part of the reason our parents valued the South Pasadena Senior Center,” she explained. “Our parents were very active in the community, giving back to others throughout their lives. What the senior center did was make them feel that the community valued them back as they aged and needed help themselves.”
Chatting with volunteers delivering meals, being handed a blanket and holiday card during the holiday season or simply picking up a donated loaf of bread from a kind soul at the senior center would often make the couple’s day. A sanctuary of sorts, the city focal point at 1102 Oxley Street served a real purpose in so many ways for the likable pair.
“It wasn’t the items but the sense that the community had not forgotten about them, even as they weren’t able to be present as they were before,” explained Diane. “In addition, it also provided them with a sense of independence that they could access a community agency that specifically was made for them to get help instead of having to ask their children or others and feel like a burden.”
After serving in the South Pacific during WWII, Harold and his family – parents, younger brother Manny and sister Irene – moved in 1947 from Euclid, Ohio to South Pasadena.
They purchased their first house on Fremont Avenue, across from South Pasadena High School where Manny graduated in 1948.
Along the way, Harold met Alice and the couple married in 1958, settling in South Pasadena on Bank Street before making a final move in 1967 to a new development in the Monterey Hills because the threat of the 710 Freeway was going to bulldoze their home.
“Our father fell in love with South Pasadena quickly as a young man in his 20s and later realized it would be a great place to raise a family with its small-town feel, great schools, and close proximity to downtown Los Angeles,” reflected Diane.
Over the years, Harold became highly active in St. James Episcopal Church and the SP Masonic Lodge, was a volunteer firefighter with the South Pasadena Fire Department and served on the city’s Natural Resources Commission.
When he married Alice, she also became involved in the community with the St. Agnes Guild of St James Church, and held various positions in the El Centro and Monterey Hills PTSA, while volunteering at the South Pasadena High Career Center, and working at the polls for many elections over the years.
A close-knit family, David and Diane lived in South Pasadena throughout their childhood, attending public schools, and graduating from South Pasadena High in 1978 and 1979, respectively, in advance of college and young adulthood.
“I returned to South Pasadena in 1999 with my husband, Ronald Mitchell, and daughter, Taleen, to take advantage of the community environment and schools,” said Diane, a clinical social worker and marriage and family therapist, working primarily with seniors the past 20 years.
David resides in Pasadena with his wife, Margaret, and is the CEO of IDS Real Estate Group. “Our upbringing in the City of South Pasadena allowed us to become successful adults and help repay what was given to our family,” Diane said. “Community engagement and volunteering were central themes in our family. Both our parents were raised by Armenian genocide survivors and grew up in the Depression. They were so grateful for what the United States offered to them that giving back was intrinsic in their lives and what was modeled to my brother and I on a daily basis.”
Diane said her mother was “a quiet volunteer, rolling up her sleeves to do work and often holding treasurer positions for groups given her accounting background.”
Her father was “more social and would talk to anyone he met in the city,” she said, thinking back on a time during her childhood when she and dad visited seniors living alone at South Pasadena Masonic Lodge or those at the South Pasadena Convalescent Center and “we would bring them food or just sit and let them know they weren’t forgotten.”
Recognizing that senior centers like the one in South Pasadena are the gateway to the nation’s aging population, making life better for older adults, it’s an easy way for Diane and David to step up and provide a helping hand.
“There are many worthwhile causes to donate to but seniors are often forgotten when it comes to financial support,” said Diane. “We wanted to form an endowment with the foundation that would help the vulnerable and marginalized in our community for years to come. We wanted to honor our parents and give back to an organization that may not have realized the impact they had on us, and our parents. We are also hoping this endowment will bring awareness for the need for more donations and others will consider investing in the South Pasadena Senior Center.”
The City of South Pasadena’s budget does not support all of the needs of the local senior center, according to Foundation President Bill Cullinane. As a fundraising arm, the organization provides funding to deliver a wide-range of programs seniors have come to appreciate daily.
Further, he said much of the programming and infrastructure upgrades are funded by the Foundation. “An example of the type of needs the organization supports would be newly scheduled educational and recreational events and replacement of all the computers at the Senior Center which are relied upon by some of our residents,” Cullinane said. “The senior center is one of the hidden gems of our city and means so much to our seniors in the area. I would encourage the citizens of South Pasadena to become aware of both the senior center and the Foundation. Support of the Foundation is critical in keeping the Senior Center vibrant and active into the future.”
There are a multitude of causes to donate, but Diane insists seniors are often forgotten when it comes to financial support, saying: “We wanted to form an endowment with the Foundation that would help the vulnerable and marginalized in our community for years to come. We wanted to honor our parents and give back to an organization that may not have realized the impact they had on us, and our parents. We are also hoping this endowment will bring awareness for the need for more donations and others will consider investing in the South Pasadena Senior Center.”
Donations made by Diane and her brother will go into an endowment with the Foundation and be utilized where the South Pasadena Senior Center board and staff believe it is most needed. “I would hope to continue the different meal and food programs as it was what was most valued by our parents and food insecurity is a problem faced by many seniors, especially on tight budgets,” Diane said. “Current inflation is hitting everyone hard but especially seniors. Costs for food, utilities, housing, medication and health care are rising which is creating a struggle for our seniors.”
Diane is confident the Foundation will be a good steward of her family’s financial contribution, providing aid to the most vulnerable in the community as long as possible. She and her brother know firsthand that the elderly, like their parents, need support from others for an enjoyable and meaningful life.
“Serving our community seniors to make sure their basic physical and emotional needs are met is a challenge that we hope our donation can support,” Diane said. “As I work with seniors in the community, I appreciate that our city and dedicated group of volunteers and staff care about other seniors who may not have the family support that my parents had.”
Thank you, Mgrublians, for your contributions and for shining a light on this important local resource.