The true heart of Heart of the Valley (HOV), Services for Seniors, Inc. has died. Glenda Cresap, 72, who led the small but mighty organization located in a tiny blue house off El Camino Real for over 30 years, died at Good Samaritan Hospital on July 1 surrounded by her family.
Born April 30, 1950 in Council Bluffs, Iowa to a military family, Cresap spent her teen years in Oxnard, Calif. where she, a politically savvy youth, advocated for others, protested and cruised the streets of Los Angeles with her grandmothers. It was during this time, she became passionate about senior citizens, eventually studying social work and gerontology at Ventura Community College (VCC) and San Jose State University (SJSU).
While at VCC, Cresap met her husband, Mike, who said he was drawn to her gregarious personality and outspoken nature – two traits that served her well throughout her life.
“She was just very gregarious and outspoken and self-assured and fun and lovely,” said Mike Cresap. “She had a sparkle and we dated more and more. I told her she completed me because she had this genuine warmth and caring for others and outspokenness – an ease of talking to people. I was more introverted and quiet and shy. She did the things that I couldn’t; I did the things she couldn’t. We made a really good couple.”
Soon after the pair transferred to SJSU, they married in an outdoor ceremony in December 1971 and had their only daughter, Heather. Cresap took the opportunity to take a break from her studies and focus her energy and effort into raising their daughter, but in the 1980s she began chipping away at her degree, which she completed in 1990. After graduating, Cresap contemplated continuing her studies with the goal of becoming an elder law attorney, but she was given an opportunity she couldn’t refuse before getting that chance. While attending a PTA meeting, Cresap was approached by Dave Sargent, a board member of a small and struggling nonprofit that had difficulty holding on to an executive director. Before she knew it, Cresap was named the executive director of HOV – a ten hour a week position she only expected to hold for a short period of time. Ten hours soon became 20 and before she knew it, HOV became Cresap’s career.
Throughout her tenure, which ended in August 2021, Cresap grew Heart of the Valley’s client base and volunteers, while fostering connections with politicians and the community. She was the first to advocate for the needs of her organization and her way of connecting with people made others eager to support the work of HOV. And, while Cresap’s enthusiasm and charm made HOV what it was, she was never one to take credit for keeping the doors open. For her, it was the volunteers, a base of 200 strong when she celebrated her 25th year with HOV in 2015, who were the heart, and she made sure everyone from board members to volunteers knew they were appreciated. It wasn’t out of character for Cresap to purchase cutting boards, badge holders and anything she could find adorned with a heart to later give as a gift to someone associated with the organization, and she never forgot a birthday. Everyone in her address book always received a card every year on their birthday.
“She had a file cabinet full of cards and she would buy 30 or 40 at a time,” said Mike Cresap, “and she recognized everybody’s birthday and sent them a personal handwritten note. She made everyone feel special.”
When holidays arrived, Cresap would decorate her home and the HOV office to celebrate each occasion. She never passed up the opportunity to indulge in chocolate and loved baking (one of her HOV projects was collecting family cookie recipes from clients and combining them to create a cookbook) and cooking. Cresap also considered herself a political junkie – protesting the Vietnam War in her youth, watching the Watergate hearings on TV and, more recently, found herself invested in the January 6 Committee’s findings – and took an interest in the media. For years, she had a standing movie date with friends every Tuesday and hosted an annual party for the Oscars where guests would rate the films and share their thoughts on each nomination. Most importantly, Cresap adored her family and planned events to recognize the people she loved the most.
Cresap recently organized a 90th birthday party for her step-father, Frank Neff, and brought her entire family together at the end of April for the event, and in May, she and her husband celebrated their daughter’s birthday when the trio took a trip to Southern California to visit their favorite Los Angeles spots. At the time of her death, Cresap was starting to settle into retired life and was both eager and excited for what the future held.
“It’s difficult,” said Mike Cresap. “We have great memories and we cherish all the times we were together. We were all made to feel special by her. She brought out the best in everyone.”
Cresap is survived by her husband Mike Cresap, daughter Heather Cresap, sisters Patty Komes, Carla Tobiassen and Leslie Briseno, step-father Frank Neff and 12 nieces and nephews.