After being shuttered since 2013, the retirement home is almost ready to accept new residents.
By Julie BUTCHER
Twelve Oaks Lodge is in the process of re-opening its La Crescenta location to serve the seniors and families of the Crescenta Valley and is accepting reservations now.
Sandy Solis, the facility’s new executive director, said, “Twelve Oaks is coming back! We’re painting, revamping the downstairs lodge, redoing the gardens, the walkways to make it safe and clean, colorful and beautiful. We’re planning to bring it back to what it was for the people who live here and for the community.”
Solis hosted a community open house meeting at Twelve Oaks Lodge on Tuesday and was surprised by the outpouring of interest and continued support from the neighbors and families of former residents. Seven people who used to live at Twelve Oaks have already signed up to return.
“Next week, we’ve got seven department heads starting: an activities director, a world-class dietician, maintenance, several others. Then we’ll start hiring staff. There’ll be a nurse on-site; we have a van for medical appointments. We’ll be ready to provide the care our residents need, as they need it, with the love and respect they deserve, at every stage of their lives.”
The newly reconstituted Twelve Oaks Lodge will provide independent- and assisted-living services as well as memory care for as many as 55 seniors (those over 60). Solis would not be pinned down to a specific move-in date but assured the neighbors at the open house there would be Christmas caroling at Twelve Oaks this year.
“We’re ready to sign people up. For a $1,000 community fee, we’ll hold your room and not cash your check until move-in,” she said. “We’re filling up fairly quickly and are hoping for our first residents by the end of August.”
Julia Leeper has lived on Sycamore Avenue for more than 30 years and leads the area’s 850-family Neighborhood Watch; she fought hard to keep Twelve Oaks open.
“We used to hold our National Night Out event here at Twelve Oaks. Families came here for movie nights and barbecues. I brought my kids caroling here,” Leeper recalled.
“It was so sneaky how they did it,” Leeper said of the closing of the home in 2013 by the be.group. “They were checking with the City to see how close they could build to the oak trees. In the meantime, the people who lived here truly believed this would be the last place they lived. There was a group of World War II vets, three or four best friends. It was heartbreaking to see them lose their homes.”
She added that a demonstration by neighbors and National Charity League-Glendale Chapter was held at the be.group headquarters. A petition was circulated to keep the facility open and Leeper helped some of the staff find jobs.
“Eventually an attorney helped us, pro bono,” she said.
Leeper said the neighbors are “just delighted that Twelve Oaks is coming back. The roses are blooming. We’re thinking about a small community garden, to bring the neighbors and the kids back in.”
“My kids used to come here for holidays and events. I told my grandchildren that Twelve Oaks is back and they asked if they can come caroling here this year,” she said wiping away a happy tear.
James and Effie Fifield donated Twelve Oaks to the Verdugo Hills Sunshine Society in 1935. The aim of the International Sunshine Society was to “bring sunshine into the hearts and lives of those less fortunate.” The Fifields’ goal was to create “a homelike boarding home for elderly people of culture and refinement who can be made happy by our particular brand of sunshine,” they noted in an early newsletter.
In 1963 the National Charity League (NCL)-Glendale Chapter raised more than $50,000 for a new retirement home. Impressed by the Sunshine Society and Twelve Oaks, the NCL used the funds to build what is now Stern Hall – nine units dedicated to the care of elderly women. The two groups merged to operate the facility through the early 2000s when it was donated to the Southern California Presbyterian Homes for professional operation.
Southern California Presbyterian Homes rebranded itself as the be.group in 2011. In 2013, it announced the sale of Twelve Oaks to a housing developer and gave the 50 seniors living at Twelve Oaks 60 days notice to move out.
As Leeper remembered, the community organized in protest. The group Friends of Twelve Oaks launched a website and filed a lawsuit to block the closure and to have a receiver appointed to oversee the property dispute. The intended purchaser, New Urban West of Santa Monica, pulled out as a result.
The National Charity League and the be.group reached a settlement in 2015 to return the property to the charity to be operated by Northstar Senior Living Company.
Solis is excited to be getting to work.
“We want this to be home again,” she said. “We plan to restore it to just what it was for the people who live here and for the entire community.”
She extended an invitation for a family-style barbecue at Twelve Oaks on Tuesday, July 11.
“If you know someone who used to live here, please get them in touch,” Solis said. “They’ll get first priority to come back.”
Twelve Oaks is accepting reservations now. Call Sandy Solis at (818) 862-0810 or check out the Twelve Oaks website at www.TwelveOaksSeniorLiving.com.