Village Community Services hanging on in hard-hit economy

SMOKEY POINT — Village Community Services' annual Taste of Decadence fundraiser adopted a space exploration theme this year in the Stillaguamish Senior Center, but in the midst of an ongoing recession, its concerns remain rooted on the ground level.

"We need money now more than ever," said Michelle Dietz-Date, resource development manager for VCS. "It takes $150,000 a year to meet the needs of our aging participants, so that they can continue to enjoy the same quality of life."

VCS seeks to provide disabled residents of Marysville, Arlington and Stanwood with three avenues to assist them in building their self-esteem and productivity. The VCS band, Voices of the Village, offers a creative outlet for disabled people to express themselves, while the VCS career planning and placement services are designed to help disabled people find and keep jobs. VCS also raises funds so that disabled people can live in their own homes, but with the rate of early-onset Alzheimer's among those with Down syndrome, this becomes a tough goal on a tight budget.

"Many of our participants have parents in their 80s and 90s who want to visit them on weekends, but have difficulty driving, especially at night," Dietz-Date said. "We need staff members who can help drive our participants, as well as help them stay engaged in other ways in the community. The economic downturn means more companies are either outsourcing their labor or keeping their own people employed, so it's harder for our participants to obtain and retain jobs."

Carol Penewell is one of those VCS participants. Through their residential program, she lives in a house in Smokey Point with two other disabled people, and even cares for a dog. She laughed as she described "lunch" as her favorite part of her job through the VCS vocational program, but she also praised her caregivers, who are certified as nurses.

"Village Community Services is committed to providing lifelong care," said Carol's mother, Joan, whose late husband, Royal, was honored by VCS last year for his years of service to the group. "They have lots of wonderful and dedicated volunteers who do this for years and years. The longevity of their staff tells you how stable their organization is."

Village Community Services is located in Suite 200 on 3210 Smokey Point Blvd. For more information, you can call them at 360-653-7752, ext. 14, or log onto their website, at

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