Thursday evening, April 10th, 2014 marked the Valley Family Center’s Annual Benefit Dinner and Auction. Their theme was, “Celebrating our past, embracing our present, anticipating our future.” The event was well attended and successful. During the course of the evening, Sr. Carmel Somers, RSC was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award.
The accolades didn’t stop with the presentation! Another honoree, Zev Yaroslavsky, one of the Los Angeles County Supervisors, who received the Lifetime Public Service Award, devoted much of his acceptance speech to praising Carmel, the great work of the Valley Family Center, and described sisters as “incredible women who have given up everything in order to be there for others”. Carmel’s award is an incredible honor and we were very fortunate that many RSC’s were able to attend and witness her being honored.
Carmel has been ministering at the Valley Family Center since 1993. She began by establishing the Learning Center Tutorial Program, originally for gang members coming out of Juvenile Hall with little basic Education, and later with the aim of preventing students from dropping out of school. That particular area of the San Fernando Valley has many poor and marginalized, and unfortunately, a high drop-out rate from school. Soon after, Carmel was appointed to the Board of Directors as the Administrator of the VFC in 1996. In 2005, Carmel was appointed Executive Director. Even as Executive Director, Carmel kept her hand in her initial work with the after school Learning Center.
In June, 2013, Carmel stepped down as Executive Director but remains on the Board and is the Director of the Learning Center Program. The board, and, indeed, Carmel herself, hope to see the Learning Center programs expanded, so she will remain there to oversee this future development.
In all her years at Valley Family Center, Carmel’s passion for the ministry there has never waned – if anything, it has become stronger. She still has dreams for improving the lot of the many “Lazarus” she encounters in her day-to-day. Carmel says she still loves it, and hopes to continue for years to come.
Sr. Teresa Doherty also shares a reflection on Sr. Carmel:
I first met Sr. Carmel Somers in 1958 while she was a student at St. Michael’s School in Clonmel, County Tipperary, Ireland. She was very enthusiastic about the subjects offered at school and she told me that she was going to be a Sister of Charity. In that school they were taught to make all kinds of cake decorations, creative house designs, artistic dress designs and prepare nutritious meals. I feel she was preparing in the right school to be a very efficient future Sister of Charity.
She also used her talents teaching at the St. John’s Seminary in Camarillo for a number of years and continued working in community organizations in San Fernando Valley. Her creativity led her to support Una Connolly in founding the Valley Family Center, which is progressing very well up to the present time. And now Sister Carmel has retired as Director but will still be available for consultation. We wish her many more years in the service of the Sisters of Charity.