January 23, 2022

Town Council Announces Five “Do-Gooder” Awards


The Topanga Community Club’s (TCC) first meeting of the year got off to an auspicious start on January 11, with an delightful wine, cheese and dessert buffet reception elegantly staged by Stacy Sledge, Town Council community liaison, and fellow members of the Town Council in honor of the nominees for its 2006 “Do-Gooder” Awards. Tall arrangements of red winter florals and multi-tiered towers of cookies and pastries adorned tables burgeoning with cold cuts, crackers and other delights.

Town Council president Jacqui Benson explained the process used to select the five Topangans chosen by the Council to receive the award out of a pool of nominees submitted by the community at large; each has a long history of service to the community. Andrea Makshanoff was honored for her work with Topanga Coalition for Emergency Preparedness (T-CEP), as well as with County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky’s Topanga Emergency Management Planning (TEMP) Committee. “She is a really hard worker; she’s just an absolute gem to work with,” said Pat Mac Neil, president of T-CEP, of Makshanoff. “She gets in and learns exactly what she has to do and trains for it and gets it done. I just think she’s absolutely fantastic.”

Abigail Bok received the “Do-Gooder” in recognition of her work with Arson Watch and her contributions to Supervisor Yaroslavsky’s steering committee for the small animal rescue team. Tuna Canyon neighbor Kay Austin said, “We’re really thrilled here that Abigail received the award. We know she has done so much.” Patrick Nelson of Arson Watch described Bok as “the most prolific Arson Watcher. She really deserved it for her role in continuing to keep the community safe. Every single red flag day she gets involved, patrolling and organizing the team.”

Arson Watch was also separately honored as a group, “in appreciation to the organization and all its volunteers for their vigilance on behalf of everyone in Topanga.” Patrick Nelson and Bob Loftus stepped forward to receive the award on behalf of the group, while other Arson Watch volunteers stood to be recognized.

Michele Johnson received her “Do-Gooder” in honor of her ongoing efforts with the homeless and dayworkers as a PATCH (People Assisting Topanga Canyon with Helping hands) volunteer, her work with Supervisor Yaroslavsky’s TEMP Committee and her time working with the Topanga Historical Society, said Benson. Nancy Swenson Williams, who attended the reception with her mother Harriet, was pleased to see Johnson honored, not only for the activities mentioned in the award citation, but also for the “hundreds and hundreds of hours she has spent editing the new edition of ‘The Topanga Story,’ which is now finished.” Swenson Williams said Johnson has worked for nearly five years on the updated history of the community. “Michelle is well known for her work with PATCH, CHIC, and so many things in the Canyon, and she loves Topanga,” said Swenson Williams.


Town Council Announces Five “Do-Gooder” Awards

Stacy Sledge, Cynthia Scott and Jacqui Benson (second row, from left) salute 2006 Do-Gooder Award winners: front row, from left: Rebecca Goldfarb (Arson Watch), Abigail Bok, Michele Johnson, Scott King (Arson Watch), Andrea Tice (Arson Watch), and Ami Kirby; (second row from left next to Benson): Patrick Nelson (Arson Watch), Bob Loftus (Arson Watch), Andrea Makshanoff, Barbara Heldman (Arson Watch) and Becky Baumgardner. (Arson Watch).

Ami Kirby was also honored “for all the time and creativity she has contributed to the Topanga Historical Society and her work on ‘The Topanga Story.’” Lynne Haigh thinks Kirby was well deserving of the honor: “Ami has been the archivist for the Historical Society for, I think, about seven years. She used to be the children’s librarian in Santa Monica and she has really put those skills to use in organizing and archiving the photographs and historical materials and opening up the office at Pine Tree Circle where residents can come and read through it.” Many who have come to rely on the wealth of well-organized old photographs and documentary records have little idea how things looked before Kirby took over, says Haigh. “That’s pretty much what it was when she started out—just a big bunch of junk in a box—but she met with other archivists and figured out what should be kept and how it needed to be stored to preserve it. She is the one who went through all the stuff; it took a couple of years. She still is down there at least one day a week for several hours to open up the office for people to read through it.” Since Mary Bloom died, Kirby has also taken over the programs four times a year, says Haigh. Kirby has also played a vital role in the forthcoming revision of “The Topanga Story.” “She’s really the one who has kept ‘The Topanga Story’ project alive,” says Haigh. “She and Michele have been working on it for a couple of years, Michele writing the draft and Ami pulling the pictures and other materials for it. It’s been an enormous amount of work.” Kirby also volunteers for the T-CEP Hotline, notes Haigh, “although I am sure they were honoring her more for her work with the Historical Society than for that.”

Town Council Announces Five “Do-Gooder” Awards

Town Councilís Stacy Sledge (left) and Jacqui Benson (right) present the first Topanga Spirit Award to Kim Dungee (center).

Each of the award recipients was presented with a certificate and a check for $500 from the Town Council. Cynthia Scott, field deputy to Supervisor Yaroslavsky, was also on hand to present the winners with a certificate from the county honoring their contributions, as well as her personal thanks for the work they have performed on behalf of the Topanga community.

This year, the Town Council also decided for the first time to bestow a new award, named the “Topanga Spirit Award,” on a non-Topanga resident. The first Topanga Spirit Award went to Caltrans construction flagger Kim Dungee, “a very special person who came into our town and has brightened the spirits of all who see her directing traffic. Lucky for us, the road work being done has been a lot more tolerable thanks to the good fortune that she works for the Statewide Safety and Sign Company,” said Benson, who presented Dungee with flowers, an award certificate and a check on behalf of the Town Council.

Before the winners were announced, Benson also asked each of the nominees to stand and be recognized. Their ranks, said Benson, included Buz Tarlow, “for his tireless work with the technology of Topanga Elementary, T-CEP and other community groups;” Bill Buerge, “for his graphic talents, as well as his generosity in opening his home for many events;” Karla Morrison, “for her work with, I believe, every organization in Topanga. Karla and civic-mindedness are practically synonymous;” Mark Friendship, for “his willingness to put himself and his company into helping out organizations in Topanga with their time and skill, and also for the work in renovating the bathrooms at the Community House;” Debra Silbar, “whose donation of her time and energy to Topanga Elementary has been phenomenal;” Ellen Geer, who, “as artistic director of the Theatricum Botanicum, has for many years contributed her time and efforts to bringing the performing arts to Topanga;” Barbara Heldman, for “her contributions to Arson Watch;” Miriam Clare, “who promotes Topanga through her real estate activities;” Susan Clark, “most notably for her efforts with Topanga Animal Rescue and the Coyote Club, but also for her valued participation as a member of the Topanga Town Council;” Dan Hanrahan, whose “response to volunteering for any organization or event is a resounding ‘Yes’”; and Lee Michaelson, for her “journalistic generosity in assisting many of our town’s groups with exposure and a voice for their issues.” Also nominated was Lauren Schafer, who has moved from the Canyon, but was recognized “most notably for her work on the Quilts for Kids project for the victims of Hurricane Katrina and her volunteerism in the community.”

Sledge encouraged Topanga residents to write up their nominations for the 2007 “Do-Gooders” and send them in along with their applications for this year’s local access stickers. Residents are also invited to attend Town Council meetings, held the third Thursday of each month at Abuelitas. For more information, call (310) 455-3001.