Santa Maria Leaders Reflect on SMVYFC 50th Anniversary

This year, the Santa Maria Valley Youth & Family Center (SMVYFC) is celebrating its 50th anniversary. Board members and other local leaders recently reflected on the impact the nonprofit has made during its half century of service. SMVYFC, which merged with Family Service Agency (FSA) of Santa Barbara County in 2017, supports thousands of families each year in stabilizing and achieving greater well-being.

“Strong families are the cornerstone of strong communities,” said Brian Zimmerman, Director of Student and Family Services for the Santa Maria Bonita School District. “Santa Maria Valley Youth & Family Center has helped students and their families in our district for generations.”

“The impact that Santa Maria Valley Youth & Family Center has had over the past 50 years speaks for itself,” said Teressa Johnes, FSA Board Member and former Chief Program Officer for First 5 of Santa Barbara County. “Not many organizations have the longevity in providing quality services throughout the north county.  Part of what makes SMVYFC so successful is the ability to adapt to the community needs – which are ever growing and changing. Congratulations SMVYFC! Here’s to 50 more years!”

“With its emphasis on whole family care, the work of FSA and SMVYFC can only lead to a healthy community for all of us. In the next 50 years, I see FSA continue to be the lead agency for whole family care, which is not only essential but critical for the wellbeing of the whole family unit,” said Patty Herrera, Manager of Community Health at Dignity Health and FSA board member.

“I see SMVYFC continuing to give hope to children and families that are distressed.  Their lives will be better because they are not alone; there are others that care about them and will help get them reach their goals,” said Judi Nishimori, retired SMVYFC Executive Director who proudly served SMVYFC for 45 years.

“I had the privilege in participating in a tour of the FSA facilities located in North County and South County and interact with FSA’s staff members,” said Blanca E. Mejia, Partner at Twitchell and Rice, LLP and FSA board member. “FSA has outstanding staff that works hard and truly cares for the Santa Barbara County community it serves. It was a proud moment to be able to be on ground zero with the FSA staff that is working diligently every day with our community’s best interest in mind. I look forward to continue to bear witness to FSA’s impact in our community for the next 50 years.”

“FSA and the SMVYFC have played a critical role in strengthening and empowering the families and youth of Santa Maria, and I truly think there is no higher calling than this. Their commitment is felt through the people served, and the hope they have instilled in so many,” said Paul Van Meel, Santa Maria Police Lieutenant and FSA board member. “In the future, I believe FSA and SMVYFC will continue to take a leadership role as they evolve and adapt to the changing needs of our community.”

To celebrate SMVYFC’s milestone with the community, FSA is hosting a Family Festival on October 1 at the new Machado Plaza in Santa Maria. For more information, visit To learn about other SMVYFC programs and to look at the 50-year timeline, visit


Family Service Agency of Santa Barbara County (FSA) is a nonprofit social service agency that has served the people of Santa Barbara County since 1899. Operating as Santa Maria Valley Youth and Family Center (SMVYFC) in Santa Maria and Little House By The Park (LHP) in Guadalupe, FSA helps the community’s most vulnerable children, families, and seniors meet their basic needs while simultaneously addressing mental health needs. Through this holistic approach, FSA improves the strength and well-being of our community. All services are provided free or on a sliding fee/donation scale and no one is denied assistance because of an inability to pay. Visit or call (805) 965-1001 for more information.

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