THE COFFEE BREAK, an SVL CLUB and the SPRING VALLEY LAKE CITIZEN’S GROUP with LISA VERHAGEN

Spring Valley Lake, CA – By: Simone Graham – Editor HDG – Come to The Coffee Break and brew a cup of Keurig coffee (or tea), sample some coffee cake and cookies (often baked by the members themselves), and pick up a book or two from the lending library table members organize once a month. Spring Valley Lake Association homeowners and renters are both welcome to attend. How did all this begin?

A few years ago, Lisa Verhagen, Communications Committee Secretary, and her husband, Dennis, Chairperson of The Communications Committee started the group (originally known as Coffee and Conversation) at the request of John Sabo, General Manager, and Megan Blair, Community Services Director, to create a communication avenue directly between SVLA staff and property owners and renters in Spring Valley Lake. When the administration changed, the Committee considered a Facebook page enabling public commentary. The Association leadership nixed that suggestion, explaining that any communication had to be approved by administration. This was not the direction Lisa and Dennis wanted to pursue, as they felt communication should be two-sided.

Lisa was inspired by the Victor Valley News Group’s success and decided to start a Facebook page that enabled Association members and renters alike to reach out to each other as neighbors. The Spring Valley Lake Citizen’s Group (also known as the SLVCG) launched in October 2014. News about the SVLCG spread through word of mouth and the Facebook group has grown to over 2,900 members. That is quite an accomplishment considering the Association has just over 4,200 property owners. Lisa takes pride in approving qualified members and currently has over 500 people waiting to be approved for the SVLCG. Membership is open to residents and property owners in SVL.  Members discuss Association issues, give recommendations for services and vendors, provide event announcements, list things for sale/things needed, report lost objects, warn others about accidents, road closures and police activity, and comment on neighborhood news.

There are currently eight authorized SVLCG spinoff Facebook groups. The topics include biking, play dates for kids, pet news/lost and found, road safety, real estate, business partners, free stuff, and a separate group for the SVL Equestrian Estates.  The same month the SVLCG Facebook page began, Lisa and Dennis also announced the start of The Coffee Break, an SVLA official club.  This was a replacement for the old Coffee and Conversation and would enable the group to be able to use the SVLA Community Center for meetings and events. After some delays, and a rewrite of the SVLA rules for clubs, the club was finally approved a couple months later. Attendance has continued to grow and the club is thriving.

The Coffee Break meets the third Thursday of every month at the Community Center at 10:00 am. Lisa is the founder and Dennis serves as the current chairperson and leads the meetings. Usually there is an agenda based on community issues and upcoming events. Dennis and Lisa extend an open invite to the SVLA board and Association management to attend. They have invited outside speakers to give talks updating the group on what is happening in the high desert, with special guests including our local water agency, CSA 64 representative Steve Samaras, who brings us up to date on plans from our local water district and Don Holland, assistant to Supervisor Lovingood, who drop in from time to time to hear concerns from the area and keep members of The Coffee Break informed about projects such as traffic studies on Yates Road and Ridgecrest and the Yucca Loma Bridge project.

Lisa has combined community participation on SVLCG Facebook with her posts to The Coffee Break Facebook page and the local Breeze newspaper by saluting neighborhood participation from lemonade stands, to a 59th wedding anniversary celebration, the Boy Scout Pinebox Derby, highlighted some of the most stunning amateur Spring Valley Lake photos and recently gave honor to some volunteers who made house repairs for an SVL mom whose daughter had just passed away

The Coffee Break has hosted the “Care About Your Health Fair” at the SVL Beach, which included a blood drive, and National Night Out with our local SVLCG Bike Club and Sheriff at the Community Center, and . During meetings, members have celebrated a 50th wedding anniversary, participated in a pumpkin decorating contest, and a held a Christmas party with a pancake breakfast.

The Citizen’s group first event was organized in just four days.  Posts on The SVLCG suggested Christmas caroling and immediately residents began volunteering help and ideas to make it an evening to remember. The first parade was just an idea to carpool and go caroling. So many people responded that it ended up being a parade.  They gave out tins of popcorn, and baked goods in goodie bags. Toys for Tots Marines in their dress blues walked the parade and collected toys from the residents. In the Second Annual Christmas Parade, the Country Club ladies decorated their golf carts, the Veterans had a float, singers came from the local school, dog rescuers walked pets, kids on drums played, and a rock band performed. Then back at the Community Center a balloon artist made balloon animals for the children while everyone enjoyed music from the choir and a tuba band and had refreshments.

Spring Valley Lake Citizen’s Group and The Coffee Break have both raised community awareness and participation and have served as an example of what the community can accomplish when people work together. You can find both on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/groups/SVLCG/  and at https://www.facebook.com/groups/tcbsvl/

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