Celebrating Its 70th, Community Center Lives to Teach

Maureen Bond, executive director of the Community Center of La Cañada Flintridge, is looking forward to the center’s 70th anniversary celebration.
Photo by Wes Woods II / OUTLOOK
Maureen Bond, executive director of the Community Center of La Cañada Flintridge, is looking forward to the center’s 70th anniversary celebration.

To celebrate its 70th anniversary, the Community Center of La Cañada Flintridge will stick with its specialty — teaching local residents how to get more out of life — by focusing on classes that range from ceramics to chess.
The nonprofit center will welcome guests from 2-5 p.m. this Sunday, Sept. 15, to what officials are calling a thank-you to local folk for their support, a free sampling of its classes for people of all ages. Attendees must register to receive a form that they must fill out to be admitted to the classes. Participants can enjoy a snow cone and enter a raffle to win prizes.
“We want people signing in and making sure they know where they’re going and to go have fun,” said Maureen Bond, executive director of the center that opened in 1949, albeit with a different name. “I told my staff to keep it simple — it’s just about the classes. It’s what we do best.”
One of the center’s signature classes is ceramics, and there will be free sessions on that art on Sunday. Maureen Siegel-Sprowles, a community center board member who takes morning ceramics classes, said she has enjoyed the program for 24 years.
“It is the best-hidden little gem in our city,” she said. “I discovered it because my son was playing baseball on these fields” near the community center. “I walked down here and I was looking around and I saw a ceramics studio. People were working like they are now.”
Siegel-Sprowles said she enjoyed the camaraderie of the ceramics program — and the special workshops that included famed ceramicist Dora De Larios, who died last year — and has made lifelong friends.
“It’s more than a creative experience, it’s a social experience,” Siegel-Sprowles said.
Helen Jean Taylor, who started teaching ceramics at the La Cañada Youth House, the center’s original name, in July 1966, helped create the program’s popularity. After she retired in January 2017, the ceramics studio was named for her on Nov. 4 of that year.
“I was director of the ceramics department for 40 years,” said Taylor, 92, in an email. “During those years the ‘Youth House’ has grown enormously. Like any organization it had its ups and downs, but it is truthfully now a community center and all of us … are dedicated to helping it move forward.”
When she started in the 1960s, the studio was a very different place. There weren’t 12 pottery wheels or three kilns for bisque firing or the other amenities that it has now.
“It was a tiny, old-fashioned studio comprising six very antiquated wheels, a very small area where we glazed and I fired to 2,150 degrees in a three-cubic-foot electric kiln out in the back tiny kiln room.” Taylor said. “It became apparent to me I needed to work hard at enlarging the department as fast as possible to allow myself a living wage!”
In 1972, two hard brick kilns were constructed in a patio, she said.
“By this time I had sales twice a year for the students to sell their work. Our first sale was very small, income $300. Now we sell in thousands,” Taylor added.
Siegel-Sprowles said that while she enjoys ceramics, she believes there’s something for everyone, from the center’s preschool to its senior programs.
“The city has over the last few years become more and more supportive of the center,” Siegel-Sprowles said. “I certainly hope that continues well into the future, because honestly this tiny little gem deserves the support of the community. People who do take advantage of it absolutely love it.”
In its 70 years, the community center has had three name changes, Bond said. A lot of people still refer to it as the La Cañada Youth House.
“We don’t correct them because it was probably 50 years of that,” Bond said. The next name was Roger Barkley Community Center, which she said lasted for about seven years, and now it’s Community Center of La Cañada Flintridge.
“It sounds very city or political, and I think that hurts us at times where we always have to remind people we’re a nonprofit,” Bond said. “The city’s not running us. We do fill in for everything the city’s not doing and we have their support, which is great.”
Bond said one misconception people have is believing the center is strictly for seniors.
“I’m like ‘No, we’re a community center but we have senior programming,’” Bond said. “We don’t do lunches, we don’t have meals and we’re not a cooling center. It doesn’t mean one day we couldn’t be.”
LCF Mayor Leonard Pieroni said the community center is a huge asset to the city. He said he participated in some of the middle school activities the center had more than 40 years ago.
“They have a good sense of trying to figure out the city and providing services and things for a lot of our residents,” Pieroni said.
After the celebration, the center’s next special event will be the CCLCF Thanksgiving Day Run and Food Drive on Thursday, Nov. 28. Early-bird registration for $40 including a T-shirt is continuing through Sept. 30 and regular registration at $45 starts Nov. 27. Race-day registration is $50.
For more information on the center, the celebration and classes, visit cclcf.org.

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