Les Tupper honorees selected for service to community

Six women, including two high school students, and one local organization will be celebrated in an April 10 ceremony at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory as recipients of the prestigious Les Tupper Community Service Awards.

Recipients include Thursday Club President Sheri Morton; Vicki Schwartz, founder and president of the La Cañada Flintridge Sister Assn.; local 710 activist Jan SooHoo; Christie Clarkson, president-elect of the Glendale/La Cañada chapter of the National Charity League; the Assistance League of Flintridge; and La Cañada High School seniors Shayna Goldstein and Kara Bradley.

Dr. Earl H. Maize, manager of JPL's Cassini Program and a longtime La Cañada resident, will be the featured keynote speaker at this year's ceremony, to be held in JPL's von Karman Auditorium.

The awards are presented by the La Cañada Flintridge Coordinating Council, a nonprofit organization that assists local volunteer and service groups by serving as a central hub of meeting time and event information.

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Prize namesake Leslie (Les) C. Tupper was a former president of the coordinating council and school board, regarded for his deep commitment to education, youth and enhancing the quality of life in La Cañada Flintridge. As such, recipients dating back to 1969 have been selected for the length and breadth of their service records.

Morton came to volunteering after a 30-year career as an English teacher, joining the Assistance League of Flintridge's Cañada Auxiliary of Professionals in 1990. When her daughter joined the Thursday Club's Les Fleurettes debutante program, she joined as a way to honor her own mother, a former member, and now serves as president.

"Giving back to my community is something I do because I want to," Morton reasoned in a recent interview. "It's like giving blood — nobody makes me do it."

In 2013, Morton spearheaded La Cañada High School's 50th reunion in Memorial Park. She's also organized the Red Cross blood drive at La Cañada Presbyterian Church, where she's served as deacon and a senior ministry task force member.

Appearing in the headlines for her recent effort to establish the La Cañada Sister Cities Assn., Schwartz is a mother of three who's lived in La Cañada with husband Brad for the past 28 years. An attorney by profession, she contributed to the La Cañada Flintridge Educational Foundation as a board member from 2003 to 2006 and has chaired home tours, jazz nights and a fashion show fundraiser.

Inspired by her own experience as a student delegate from Arizona to Germany 40 years earlier, Schwartz organized La Cañada's first-ever sister cities effort and recently brokered a partnership between the city and Villaneuva de la Cañada in Spain. The first student exchange will take place this summer.

The recipient of this year's "Special Service Award" — created to recognize exemplary service that may fall outside the standard volunteer requirements — SooHoo has worked tirelessly for the past seven years to advocate against construction of an underground tunnel linking the 710 Freeway and Foothill (210) Freeway. In addition to organizing local informational workshops, the mother of two has actively participated in Metro and Caltrans meetings, where she's challenged transportation plans and proposals for the health and safety risk they pose for La Cañada residents and their children.

A member of the No 710 Action Committee, SooHoo has mobilized residents by disseminating and distilling thousands of pages of data and studies.

Clarkson first became involved in volunteering after moving to La Cañada in 2005 and joining the La Cañada Elementary School PTA, where her two daughters attended school. She moved on to serve on LCHS's PTA and is currently president and co-chairman of the group's annual Home Tour.

Through the National Charity League's local chapter, of which she is currently president-elect, Clarkson has served as a grade level adviser and volunteered her time with Ascencia, Twelve Oaks Lodge and the Glendale YWCA.

"I never would have met people I know and have become dear friends with had I not started volunteering in these groups," Clarkson said of one benefit of service.

In 1954, the Assistance League of Flintridge became the 21st chapter of the National Assistance League, and has since overseen philanthropic projects involving more than 20,000 volunteer hours annually.

Funded by donations collected from its Bargain Box thrift shop, ALF's programs include summer school for La Cañada Unified students in grades 1 through 8, theater groups and an instrumental music program for grades 4 through 6 in which nearly 200 local students are enrolled.

The League, under the current leadership of President Donna Shepherd, also aids senior citizens, needy elementary school students and other at-risk groups, regularly donating books to area schools.

Goldstein was inspired to hold more than 30 free dance classes for 30 children with disabilities as a Girl Scout Gold Award project after witnessing two handicapped girls being turned away from a dance studio. Through her work with Teens for the Advancement of Children's Hospital (TACH), she's helped provide gift cards to low-income patients and gift bags and school supplies for at-risk teens.

"Community service is just being passionate about something and then trying to give back through your passion," Goldstein, 18, said in an interview Friday.

She is president at LCHS's Make-A-Wish Club, which she founded. A member of the National Honor Society who was crowned homecoming queen, she hopes to attend the University of Texas in the fall.

Also a member of TACH, Bradley has served as president, vice president and Ticktocker council representative for the National Charity League. For her Girl Scout Gold Award, she prepared and served Christmas dinner for 80 homeless people.

Her philanthropic interests also led her to Ascencia, where she raised funds for welcome kits to families transitioning from shelters to apartments. "Sometimes people are afraid of the homeless. But it's not always their fault — sometimes bad things just happen in their lives," Bradley said.

A Junior Olympic diver for the Rose Bowl Aquatics Center, where she volunteered with a swim team for people with disabilities, Bradley has been the Rio Hondo League diving champion for the past three years.

She recently signed with Dallas' Southern Methodist University women's swim and dive team.

FYI

The Les Tupper community service awards ceremony takes place April 10 at 7 p.m. in the von Karman Auditorium of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, 4800 Oak Grove Drive, La Cañada. Admission is free. For more information, visit lcfcc.info.

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Sara Cardine, sara.cardine@latimes.com

Twitter: @SaraCardine

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