On the Town: Elks’ tradition puts knowledge at third-graders’ fingertips

The Glendale Elks Club is in the midst of distributing dictionaries to third-graders following the group’s annual fundraising gala held at the lodge.

“Thanks for Giving” was the theme, with more than 125 guests treated to a dinner of roasted turkey and all the fixings, said George McCullough, dictionary committee chair. Dancing followed with music provided by disc jockey John Carro.

This is the 12th year of the project, in which 2,500 dictionaries are personally presented by committee members to third-grade students in all Glendale schools including public, private and parochial.

The dictionaries cost $3 each, so the total needed to cover the cost is more than $7,000. About 200 hours are put into the project including adhering a label in the front of the books, where students can write their names.

Part of the joy for McCullough is returning to his alma mater, R.D. White Elementary, to hand off dictionaries to the students there.

The Elks project is unique because students get to keep the dictionaries, McCullough said. Textbooks they use in class are only on loan to students during the school year.

The chairman’s wife, JoAnn, said some of the students cry when they receive their dictionary because it’s the first book they have ever owned.

“They are proud of it and appreciate it,” she said.

Elks Lecturing Knight Normand Leduc applies the labels and tucks in the Elks bookmarks.

“They look forward to getting the dictionaries every year,” he said. “We get very nice thank-you notes from them at the end of the year.”

This is Elks Exalted Ruler David Cormier’s favorite lodge project, he said.

“There is a real excitement in the air as we give the dictionaries out at the schools,” he said.

Attending the event were Glendale Mayor Vartan Gharpetian and his wife, Glendale Unified school board member Armina Gharpetian, school board member Shant Sahakian, Supt. Winfred Roberson Jr., assistant Supt. Kelly King and Sheila Galaz, a third-grade teacher from Verdugo Woodlands Elementary School.

All three of the Gharpetians’ children have received dictionaries.

“No matter how much you study or learn, you still need a dictionary once in a while,” the mayor said.

Galaz said her students have the dictionaries on their desks every day because they do a lot of writing. The class takes about 10 field trips a year and her students write thank-you notes to the people conducting the tours.

It’s a great reference, she added, because it lists the U.S. presidents’ names, the state capitals and the continents. Students benefit by the explanations of each word and how it is used, more so than looking up words online, she said.

“I’m a big proponent of technology, but third-graders need to learn the basics of finding the spelling of words and building vocabulary,” Galaz said.

Artist captures the beauty of historical oaks

Watercolor artist Jennifer Bentson has become an educator of oak trees, a vocation acquired quite by accident.

The Glendale resident has created a series of paintings and sketches called “California Oaks As Art” and her more than 50 works are on display at the Burbank Creative Arts Center through Sept. 28.

The collection follows her journey depicting significant oak trees throughout the state that she considers treasures. Visitors are drawn into the pieces upon reading the captions telling the story of each oak.

One such story is the time Bentson climbed a hill for an hour and a half to paint the 13,000-year-old Palmer’s oak, considered among the oldest living plants, near Riverside.

She’s painted her whole life, but decided to take classes after her husband died in 2006. She delved into figure and portrait painting at the Animation Guild in Burbank and brush painting on a trip to China.

For peaceful inspiration, Bentson would go to Descanso Gardens and take in its beauty, often lying under an oak tree. Looking up, she noticed how the tree limbs mimicked those of the human body. That sparked her fascination with oaks with their twisted branches jetting out various directions.

Her first oak tree commission in 2011 was to paint a large Engelmann oak at Caltech in Pasadena. The tree was nearing its end of life, and officials at Caltech wanted to have a lasting memory of it.

That launched her series “California Oaks as Art” and then she was encouraged to submit a grant proposal to the city of Pasadena. The result was the publication of a book that features her paintings of interesting oaks throughout the city.

People often refer to Bentson as an environmental activist. “I tell them I’m not an activist — I’m bringing the oaks to you to appreciate and learn,” she said.

JOYCE RUDOLPH can be reached at rudolphjoyce10@gmail.com.

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