If you ask Lamorinda Village president Ruth McCahan what is most satisfying as she
watches the growth of the Village, she'll tell you something like this: "I am so pleased when I see our members making connections - and remaking connections - within the community. Often seniors, especially those who are single, need to reestablish their social circles as others leave the community for one reason or another. They love coming to our events and getting to know other members and volunteers."
Making connections is not a new concept for Ruth. She moved to Lafayette in 1961, and for the next 10 years she was a stay-at-home mother, raising three children. She joined Lafayette Juniors, where she not only met other young women but had the opportunity to learn about working with volunteer organizations and the values of giving back to the community.
In 1971 she began her career at Transamerica Title Insurance Company. Her expertise in the subject matter led her to work with the IT team, later becoming a corporate trainer and eventually moving into organizational development.
Since retiring in 1994, Ruth and her husband David have travelled to all 50 states and over 70 foreign countries, as well as spending time with her three grown children and six grandchildren. But she hasn't been idle between those activities; she joined the Lafayette Garden Club, became a Master Gardener, and has served on the Lafayette Senior Services Commission for the last ten years. That's the step that led her to found Lamorinda Village.
At the first Senior Symposium in 2008, Ruth listened as people outlined what they needed to stay in their homes: things like someone to fix the lock on their gate or change lightbulbs in high ceilings. Shortly after the Symposium, she heard about Avenidas Village, the first "Village" in California. She explored their website and decided "this Village idea is really great!" Ruth looked at the Lamorinda community and saw the potential for a viable Village, given the number of seniors in our three towns.
Lamorinda Village development began in earnest in 2012, with a task force of eight people, which doubled and tripled in the first two months. Task Force members from all three Lamorinda communities began to strategize and reach out to others. They surveyed more than 500 over-65 residents to determine the most pressing needs and then set about establishing committees to develop the various aspects of creating a Village organization from scratch.
Their efforts led to the formal launch of Lamorinda Village in April 2015. Five months later, the Village has 115 members, more than 50 qualified and trained volunteers to support them, and numerous screened service providers to help the members at discounted rates with jobs that are too large or complex for the volunteers to do.
"One of the strengths of the Village is that although there are all kinds of individual resources out there, we can provide this system of one-stop shopping", Ruth explains. Also important, to date the Village has offered more than 20 social and educational events.
When asked to reflect on the path to this date, she says "I've been so impressed with the background, credentials, and knowledge that our volunteers and Board members bring to the organization. It's their strong commitment to helping others and paying it forward that makes it work. "
"We have had wonderful support from the local individuals and organizations like Rotary, the Chambers of Commerce, and partners like Senior Helpline Services, the three branch libraries, St. Mary's College, John Muir Health, and the Lafayette Orinda Presbyterian Church. The Lafayette Community Foundation sponsored us during the wait for our nonprofit designation and we work closely with them on projects like the Senior Symposium."
Looking ahead, Ruth sees membership, activities, and support continuing to grow. "We're learning from our members what they want from the Village. We are committed to saying "yes". No request is too small, too big, or too difficult. We will find an answer. Some members are looking for companions to pursue all kinds of interests such as photography, walking around the reservoir, or going to the movies together. Our office can help them connect with each other and create those interest groups."