VAL VERDE – Community pioneer Elijah Canty, who came to Val Verde to escape segregation and emerged as a local leader, has been honored by the board of the health clinic he helped establish in 1980 to serve the low-income and the uninsured. Canty, 94, has been named board member emeritus of the Samuel Dixon Family Health Center in recognition of his contributions to the clinic over the past 25 years. “He’s 94, and we thought he would want to take it a little easier,” said Cheryl Laymon, the health center’s executive director. “He is a known community leader. He is respected by everyone. He brings not only wisdom and good judgment to the health center; he brings credibility. We don’t want to lose him.” His retirement comes at a time of growth for the nonprofit clinic whose operators attempt to meet health care needs of the rising number of uninsured in the Santa Clarita Valley. AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MORERose Parade grand marshal Rita Moreno talks New Year’s Day outfit and ‘West Side Story’ remake Canty came to Val Verde in 1948 during a wave of African-American migration at a time when blacks were banned from public swimming pools in many areas. These Val Verde pioneers established a semirural retreat in the rolling ridges west of Interstate 5 and Castaic, complete with their own pools and parks, and some emerged as leaders as the unincorporated town grew to about 1,500. Canty and his wife, Miriam, who died in 2001, were among 13 Val Verde leaders who made local health service a priority in a 1978 meeting with Los Angeles County officials. “She and Eli were a team,” Laymon said. “They went everywhere together. We’ve been just really fortunate to have them.” Then-county Supervisor Baxter Ward and the panel secured $70,000 from the Henry Mayo Newhall Memorial Health Foundation for a clinic inside a local church that the Rev. Sam Dixon was building. The clinic opened in August 1980, though Dixon died before construction was completed. Both Canty and his wife helped steer the clinic. He attended meetings, even when he needed a cane to get around, until retirement beckoned this year. “Eli said he didn’t know for sure if he was really up to it and wondered out loud about his ability to attend future board meetings,” Laymon said. Board member Tom Barnett suggested the honorary appointment, to which Canty agreed. The Samuel Dixon center has grown over the past quarter-century. A branch in Canyon Country opened in 2000, and a part-time clinic at Newhall Elementary was established earlier this year. “We’re seeing access (to health care) being an issue,” Laymon said. “What we want to have is a triangle of care. We’re going to be accessible no matter where (you) live in the Santa Clarita Valley.” Each clinic handles about 4,000 patient visits per year, while annual operating costs have increased from $100,000 when Laymon joined eight years ago to just over $1 million this year. Laymon attributed increased demand to the growing legions of the uninsured, which includes lower-income service workers and small-business owners. “They’re looking at their budgets. ‘I got to have money to eat. I got to have money for marketing. … I’m going to cross my fingers and put off purchasing health insurance for myself,’ Laymon said. “It comes down to dollars and cents. They will most likely hire people without benefits, or they hire people who work just below full-time. I don’t want to fault anybody. It’s a fact of life because insurance is so expensive.” The health center has plans to establish a full-service clinic in Newhall – home for many working-class Latinos – to include dental and mental-health care, Laymon said. “It will be a challenge,” she said. “We offer a lot of state programs and we use those to the best of our ability to make sure services are available for most people. More and more, we look to grants and community support.” Eugene Tong, (661) 257-5253 [email protected]news.com 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!