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New Recreation Manager Zee Deleon joins Rossmoor’s version of ‘Disneyland’

By Mike Wood

Staff writer


Wednesday, April 24 (9:30 a.m.): To Zee Deleon, Rossmoor is much like Disneyland, down to the vintage mansion appeal of Dollar House. GRF’s new recreation manager can’t hide his amazement.

“It’s like a carbon copy of Disneyland, but it’s exclusive for residents,” Deleon said. “They get to live here and play every day. They don’t have to purchase admission or the annual pass. They get to live here and wake up to this every single day.”

Deleon, who started his new job April 8, has a zest for working in recreation and with seniors, gaining experience in both areas working for the cities of San Pablo, then Vacaville. There are things he’s already noticed about Rossmoor residents.

“It’s how active and robust they are,” Deleon said. He contrasted his time in municipalities in trying to recruit volunteers with Rossmoorians’ willingness to step forward.

“Here, they all want to volunteer; they all want to be part of the clubs; and they want to do great things,” Deleon said. “I am really impressed by how involved they want to be and how much they want to do.”

Deleon’s energy and enthusiasm are quickly evident, which has impressed GRF Senior Manager of Resident Services Kelsey Clyma.

“Zee absolutely has a passion for working with the senior community, and when speaking with him, you can really see his personality light up when sharing his experiences,” Clyma said. “He is coming to Rossmoor with over 10 years of professional senior experience, including classes, special events and excursions; all areas of our department. He will really bring in a lot of knowledge and ideas to help grow the recreation offerings.”

In his new role, Deleon wants to focus on ease of processes, both for residents and those who work on their behalf.

“I want to make the processes and procedures as seamless as possible for the residents, clubs and the staff,” said Deleon, who holds a degree in recreation management from Cal State East Bay. “I have a lot of experience where there’s always been a ‘Well, we’ve always done this in the past’ and only one person knew how to do certain things.”

He said he’s cross-trained in many areas, “even if it wasn’t under my belt specifically. It’s just nice to know. Communication is big with me, working together as a team because we’re stronger in numbers … just like the Warriors!” he said with a hearty laugh.

As recreation manager, Deleon fills an important role that opened after Kelly Berto was promoted to the new position of senior manager of resident services last spring. Berto resigned in December, and Clyma was hired to take that role in February.

Deleon became aware of Rossmoor’s magnitude in 2011 when he was working in San Pablo and overseeing that city’s nutrition program. In discussions on congregate meal programs, Rossmoor’s name always came up.

“I said, ‘Wow, this is an amazing senior center serving hundreds of seniors,’ ” said Deleon, a native of the Bay Area.

He worked with San Pablo for 12 years, advancing from a part-time role to a coordinator who oversaw daily operations of its senior center, dealing with everything from excursions and special events to facility rentals.

“After one week, I literally inherited hundreds of grandparents, and I never looked back,” he said, noting how that prompted him to change his college studies to recreation management.

In Vacaville, he took on supervisory duties in overseeing active aging programs, special events, including a weekly summer concert series, youth services and summer camps.

“It’s really seniors that got me but recreation, too,” Deleon said. “It’s making a difference in the communities that I work for. I know it’s work, but sometimes it doesn’t feel like work.”

While in Vacaville, he worked briefly with Clyma, then that city’s recreation supervisor.

“When working with Zee, I could tell that his heart is really with the senior population; it really ‘fills his cup,’ ” she said. “He’s such a great team player, always caring for his staff as well as his coworkers; pitching in, volunteering his time to lend a hand when someone needed some extra help.”

He had grown weary of commuting from his West Contra Costa County home to Vacaville, eager for new challenges that fully involved an older adult community.

“I’m excited to be here and to help the best that I can with the experience that I’ve had working in municipalities for more than 10 years, and some change,” he said.

Deleon’s responsibilities, while aligned with his experience, are now on a much larger scale, Clyma noted.

“Zee is coming in to really stabilize and grow the Recreation Department,” Clyma said. “We are now fully staffed for the first time in over a year, and his experience in senior programming as well as staff management will allow him to grow the fantastic foundation Recreation already has with our incredibly talented staff.”

Deleon said enjoyment of his work sparks his motivation.

“That’s the best part; when it doesn’t feel like work, you care more,” he said. “You want to give your best all the time. Here, I’ve inherited thousands of grandparents, who I can hopefully provide assistance to, support to, and just help them along the way.”