Civic awareness and pride focus of unique foundation

The city of Downey dates its incorporation to Dec. 17, 1956 and it became a charter city eight years later, in 1964, but its actual beginnings go farther back.It was on Oct. 13, 1873 that the original tract map defining Downey's boundaries was filed for the land-owning Downey Land Association in the Los Angeles County court house (which functioned as a register of deeds). Incorporation was still 83 years down the road, but Downey, the budding city, was born. As the centenary of its founding on Oct. 13, 1973 approached, the city made plans for an appropriate celebration. On Sept. 21, a group consisting of community leaders, members of the City Council, and city staff formed the Downey Second Century Foundation, envisioned, as the name indicates, to "make Downey's second century even greater than its first century." The foundation was to be a "living memorial," designed to function as a "permanent organization to [help] maintain Downey's quality of life and stimulate civic awareness among citizens by promoting public and semi-public celebrations involving both public and private organizations." Its by-laws created a policy-setting 12-member board, and four officers-a president, vice president, secretary, and treasurer-to run its operations. Its current board roster includes: Lois Buchanan (president), Laurie MacIsaac (vice president), Ellie Harrington (treasurer), Jackie Essington (secretary), Vickie Spearman, Robert Cormack, Maria Larkin, Jan Siebdrath, Steve Roberson, Roger Nordin, and City Councilmember Roger Brossmer (with one vacancy). The celebration of Downey's centennial on Oct. 13, 1973 (the mayor then was Thomas Morton) was the foundation's first major project. They decided on a weeklong (Oct. 6-13) celebration. Activities included neighborhood fairs at the parks and schools, Olympics-style sports contests, marches, a symphony concert, prayer breakfast, a Centennial Ball, street dancing, barbeque, and a parade. It was a fitting tribute to Downey's rich first 100 years, from its beginning as a farm and dairy center through its glorious aerospace years. Lois Buchanan, who joined the foundation in 1976, nevertheless had been involved with it since its inception, mainly with fundraising activities. She has been serving as its president for the past nine years, as its treasurer for four years prior. She documented the centennial with a scrapbook (photos, records of events, etc.). She likes to collect, and organize, things of this sort, she says. She seems ideal for the job. Retired since 1989 after several years of working in the optometry and ophthalmology fields, Buchanan has through the years accumulated a long list of community service memberships (Downey Coordinating Council, Downey Rose Float Association, Downey Historical Society, Assistance League of Downey, Aerospace Legacy Foundation, to mention a few) after her name and often as not been recognized and honored for them. She has, for instance, twice received the Rockwell Outstanding Service Award for service to the community, as well as the Outstanding Service Award, also twice, from the Downey Coordinating Council for service to the youth, and named Woman of the Year for Downey by Assemblyman Hector DeLa Torre. Her suggestion early on to start a Neighborhood Alert Program (to go along with the so-called "Friendly Enemies Program" for the schools, where she was active for years on the Maude Price PTA) has led, she notes, to today's Neighborhood Watch Program. A drug abuse booklet which she had a hand in preparing, along with four other police officers, and which was directed to DUSD students, later turned into DARE. She has in the meantime worked on several Emergency Preparedness projects with the city and her church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (she has, for example, chaired its Interfaith Multi-Cultural Songfest for 13 years running and counting, and she plays a central role in the city's two "huge community cleanup events"-one in April ("Keep America ~ Downey Beautiful" and the upcoming "Operation Bright Side" in October, in collaboration with the Department of Public Works' Carol Rowland), among her other several involvements. Over the years the Downey Second Century Foundation has spearheaded the city's observances of its anniversaries, and Buchanan has been in the thick of things, playing active roles in the city's 20th, 30th, 35th, 40th, 45th and, of course, its 50th, anniversaries. The special 50th anniversary celebration, on Dec. 5, 2006, honored 50-year residents as well as businesses, and featured a three-tier birthday cake, 1950s music/entertainment, and the usual light food and drink. The next major city events, which promise to assume historic proportions, is the much-anticipated opening of the Discovery Sports Complex this 4th of July and the Columbia Memorial Space Center in the fall. As the Downey Second Century Foundation's mission is wedded to the city's fate, Buchanan knows the Downey Second Century Foundation will play a major role in the inaugural programs. She says the foundation is prepared to play its usual role in these events.

********** Published: June 5, 2009 - Volume 8 - Issue 7

NewsEric Pierce