January 23, 2022

Topanga Town Council Honors 2007 Do-Gooders with Awards, Picnic


One of the things that make Topanga a special place is the community of unique and talented individuals, each with different and eclectic life styles and goals, who share a common purpose: to support each other in good times and bad. This support comes in many forms but shares one common attribute at its core—volunteerism. Something else that makes Topanga special is its Town Council, a hardworking group of volunteers in their own right, and its commitment to making sure the volunteer endeavors of others on behalf of this community do not go unnoticed.


Topanga Town Council Honors 2007 Do-Gooders with Awards, Picnic

Cynthia Scott (foreground), Field Deputy to L.A. County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, presents 2007 Do-Gooder Award winners (l to r) John Stevens, Paul Astin, Lynn Dickhoff, Lynne Haigh, and Lee Michaelson, with certificate from the County, as Town Council President Stacy Sledge (background, left) looks on.

And so it was on Saturday, May 10, that the Topanga Town Council (Council) acknowledged the 2007 nominees and recipients of its annual Topanga Do-Gooder Award with a picnic in their honor. The Nature Center of Topanga State Park, was selected as the site of this year’s event, because “we feel the park is the best setting that Topanga offers for a celebration of life and goodwill,” Council President Stacy Sledge told the group, thanking the Topanga Canyon Docents and the Topanga State Parks and Recreation for “allowing us to gather here for this special occasion.”

Town Council Secretary Rebecca Goldfarb joined Sledge to emcee the awards ceremony. The two explained the history of the awards to a group of approximately 50 attendees—including this year’s honorees, their friends and family—seated about the grounds on picnic tables and blankets. In 2000 the Town Council established the annual Do- Gooder Award as a way to honor citizens of this community for their volunteer services over the previous year. Topanga residents are asked each year “to nominate fellow citizens they feel selflessly serve the community of Topanga.” The Town Council carefully reviews the nominees and offers the award to a select group of exemplary citizens, commending them on their volunteer spirit. Beginning in 2006, the Council added the Topanga Spirit Award, “a special award,” open to non-Topangans, “that exemplifies the heart of volunteerism.”

2007 DO-Gooder Nominees

All of this years nominees for the Do Gooder award were honored at the start of the ceremony for their service to the community. Sledge commented that each of the nominees had expressed surprise at having been honored with a nomination adding,”[W]e were not. It’s no surprise to the rest of us that your name was listed among those today because of all that you do in our community.”

Sledge and Goldfarb read statements gathered from several members of the community, describing the selfless volunteerism to the community of each of this year’s nominees—Billy Portman, Dr. Douglas Roy, Andrea Makshanoff, Claire Davis, Shawn Rhodes, Dawn Rhodes, Tauni Brunson, Rick Provisor, Dan Hanrahan, Pat Porter, Bill Keneko, Greg Humphries, Kay Austen, and Alli Acker—as they stepped forward to be acknowledged. Each nominee was presented with a certificate from the Council and allowed to select from a splendid array of flowering plants.

Do-Gooder Award Winners

Next, the five citizens selected by the Council from the community’s nominations to receive the Do-Gooder award for 2007 were honored. Each received a certificate and a $500 check from the Council, as well as a certificate from the County, presented by Cynthia Scott, Field Deputy to Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky and herself a former Do-Gooder honoree.

Lee Michaelson, known by many as the editor of the Messenger newspaper, was called forward to receive the first award. Sledge read comments gathered from the community citing Michaelson as one, “not afraid of controversy or unpopular issues. She hears all sides of an issue, and doesn’t make you bad and wrong for your view, but will be unstoppable in convincing you to take a look at the other side and its impact on the world.” Sledge read a statement from the newspaper’s owner, Mary Colvig-Rhodes, who said, “Lee is a great editor and puts her heart and soul into it.” In addition to her tireless work at the paper, Michaelson was recognized for her efforts on behalf of several Canyon organizations and causes including: four years’ service on Topanga Elementary Charter School’s Leadership Council; championing causes ranging from fluoride-free water to saving Topanga State Park; serving as a T-CEP board member; helping the Topanga Community Club develop its new by-laws; and contributing to the Topanga Survival Guide. And Michaelson’s efforts do not end in service to this community. She supported Mississippi victims of Hurricane Katrina by delivering supplies and clothing in the aftermath of the catastrophe. Passing on the family tradition she is helping her daughter Jordan collect supplies for a Native American reservation Jordan will visit with Maureen Tighe this summer.

Michaelson, in accepting the honor, expressed embarrassment at being singled out in this way, when, “there are so many who do so much in our Canyon. You folks foremost among them (referring to the Town Council).” She graciously went on to thank many others in attendance and, in the true spirit of a “do gooder,” pledged her $500 award to Lynne Haigh and the campagin to Save Topanga State Park.

John Stevens was next to be honored. A former Top O’ Topanga Homeowners Association Board member, Stevens remains active in helping out the residents. As head of T-CEP’s Logistics Team, Stevens is responsible for keeping the Emergency Operations Center (EOC) up and running, and keeps a record of residents with special talents and equipment, such as tractors, chainsaws, welders, and four-wheel drive vehicles, that could come in handy during a disaster Stevens commented that for the past several years he has enjoyed helping out, “without being officially on anything. I helped management by emailing, being on call for night problems, helping with stuff that breaks like water and electric and helping neighbors.” He went on the say, “I hardly feel worthy to be included in the recognition with you great people. I'm just an old hippy and handyman, sort of a bum who got lucky enough to find a place and some people to help out. Thank you all and Topanga for letting me be of service. It's an honor to know you all and be able to help.”

Lynn Dickhoff, a third-generation Topanga native born into the Haines family, got her start in community service early when, fresh out of college, she joined the Peace Corp in Guatemala. Dickhoff is known by many by her nom d’plume, Topanga Tim— providing survival tips for the Canyon in the Messenger. She is a Red Cross Team Leader, responsible for opening the local Red Cross shelter during a major emergency, and started Meals on Wheels for Topangans in need. Dickoff is T-CEP Hotline trainer, helps with many of their events, and uses her HAM radio license to help during disasters. As a Historical Society volunteer for many years she has helped with the revisions to the Topanga Story. Dickoff, who quietly goes about her do gooder duties was quiet in accepting her award, donating her check to the Historical Society and saying, “Congratulations one and all. What a wonderful celebration.”

Paul Astin, sixth-grade teacher at Topanga Elementary Charter School where he also serves as a Leadership Council Representative, was instrumental in bringing a sixth-grade class back to Topanga. A jazz musician in his limited free time, Astin has used his own funds to equip his classroom with keyboards for school and teaches his students to play them. Astin uses music and special projects to enrich math and other curriculum elements, as well as to promote community awareness and get kids involved in taking responsibility for the world around them . Every year, Astin and his sixth-grade class compose and produce a CD of original music promoting a better world. Proceeds of the CD go toward supporting causes selected by the students, among them, International wildlife groups, peace in Darfur, and aid to tsunami victims. His clas