Katie Brandon takes the helm at Pasadena Village
By Christina Fuoco-Karasinski

Calling Pasadena Village residents “wonderful and vibrant,” Katie Brandon said her job as its executive director is “the best job in the world.”

“It’s a great community of people,” said Brandon, who started at the “intentional,” nonprofit community of those 55 and older on Dec. 21.

“They really want to grow and really spread the word that this is a new approach to aging. Our members are wonderful and vibrant and excited to be who they are with each other.”

Brandon replaced Peggy Buchanan, the village’s director who retired in December after leading the organization for five years. The board selected Brandon for her broad experience in fundraising and volunteer management, and for her deep connections to Pasadena.

“We are sorry to lose Peggy’s strong leadership but feel very fortunate to have found Katie Brandon,” said board president Mike Babcock.

“Katie’s strong background in working with volunteers and in fundraising promises continued growth and development for the Pasadena Village.”

A nine-year Pasadena resident, Brandon brings nearly 15 years of nonprofit management experience, most recently as development manager at the Los Angeles Arboretum Foundation.

Brandon grew up in Orange County and focused on European studies and classics at Loyola Marymount to lay the groundwork for her wish to work at a museum.

She was able to do that immediately, by landing a job at the Pasadena Museum of History, where she worked for nearly 11 years. The experience opened her eyes to other nonprofits in the cultural fabric of the community.

“We have a rich feeling of community here,” she said. “The people, the history, the amazing treasures and stories are infused in everything in Pasadena. I think it was inevitable that I would help organizations like this grow and secure funding.”

Brandon said working at the arboretum foundation was “amazing” and was “such a beautiful place to work.”

“I learned so much about horticulture and development in a larger institution. When I saw the opportunity to be back in a role that combines my skills in fundraising, community and the operational side and management side of things, I thought this is an opportunity I need to pursue.”

She looks forward to fostering Pasadena Village’s growth, serving its 140+ members and enhancing collaborations in the greater Pasadena community.

“Pasadena Village is about, ‘What can I do to stay in my own home,’ especially with the huge population of boomers who are contributing to the community,” Brandon said.

“We’re part of this larger village movement, where these older adults support each other by staying in their own homes.”

Pasadena Village was founded a decade ago and was modeled after other villages, particularly Boston’s Beacon Hill Village, thanks to a group of Pasadena residents who wanted to help each other age in place successfully.

The members engage in a robust calendar of discussion groups and educational programming. The village offers new friendships and meaningful experiences along with ways to support each other and contribute to the wider community.

“As they’ve grown, they’ve realized the support system they can provide each other is a benefit of enjoying the village,” Brandon said. “They started forging these lovely connections with each other.

“I think that’s been especially true in the last 10 months, due to the effects of COVID. I was able to see how they pivoted almost immediately. They really jumped on Zoom. We had a lot of training sessions on how seniors could use Zoom or just call in if they don’t have a computer. That’s been fantastic.”

Brandon said some of the groups have grown because of the pandemic, as folks from around the world are invited to participate in the Zoom meetings. The events include men’s time, disaster preparedness, memoir group, Spanish conversation, spirit talk, “Science Monday” and “1619 Project: Racism in America.”

“With our ‘1619 Project,’ we have people joining us from Texas and New York regularly for this important conversation about racism through the years,” Brandon said. “It has spinoff conversations that have continued.

“People who have been personally affected by racism or have experienced it share their stories with each other, other members of the community and people in the United States. It’s just really been amazing to see the breadth of the interest and how we can provide the structure for these lovely conversations to continue.”

She’s looking forward to increasing the visibility of Pasadena Village.

“Pasadena is known as such a beautiful place to live, and Pasadena Village enhances the lives of those aging in place and helps them combat isolation, which is so critical for all of us, especially older adults, as we continue to feel the widespread effects of pandemic,” she said.”  n