"I have seen deep miracles in these kids' lives."
Nate Atwood, assistant to the pastor of Beverly Hills Presbyterian Church and a Fuller Seminary student, was speaking of how good works can affect those who perform them, notably the members of the senior high school group he leads at the church.
The 20 to 25 youngsters aged 14 to 19 participate in work projects for the poor in Tijuana and Los Angeles, often in conjunction with youth groups from St. Peter's by the Sea in Rancho Palos Verdes and other churches in the Los Angeles area. Last June, about 45 teen-agers spent a week in Tijuana building houses for the poor and improving a church there.
Another 40 to 45 youngsters spent three nights and four days over the New Year's weekend at El Rescate, a Latino refugee facility on West Pico Boulevard. They did painting, light carpentry work and landscaping at the medical clinic there, with other youngsters volunteering at the Westminster Neighborhood Assn. They stayed at Angelica Lutheran Church over the weekend.
Atwood and the Rev. Stuart Cummings-Bond, youth pastor at St. Peter's by the Sea, are planning a work party for 100 young people in June in Tijuana.
"We want to build houses for eight families who have terrible housing conditions," Atwood said. "Some of these families have nine and 10 people in a house the size of a small bedroom."
Working from a blueprint for a mass-produced house, the group hopes to build each home for about $725. Atwood said that he could identify the need for homes for up to 20 families "but we'd need $15,000 to $20,000 and it's not as easy to get your hands on that money as you might think."
He hopes to appeal for funds on a two-pronged basis: the tangible help to the poor and the human values the work experience provides to the youngsters.
"You see really good things happen with our kids," Atwood said. "They have the opportunity to put their faith into action. Faith comes out of Sunday mornings and becomes a tangible thing.
"These kids come out of Beverly Hills and Rancho Palos Verdes--an upper-class view of the world-- and see that life is giving yourself away as much as possible. You do what Jesus did: Give up power and a prestige position to help those in need.
"We build seven or eight houses, and that's a wonderful thing. The houses will last maybe 15 or 20 years. But these kids will never look at the world in the same way again and that can last 50 to 60 years. Plus, it passes on to their family and their friends."
Diving for Golf Balls?
By his own definition, George Wilkins is "a terrible golfer." But the manager of corporate communications for Carnation Co. is determined to improve and "I force myself to get out there and try . . . to learn."
So it was that, playing alone, he stepped up to the second tee at Mountain Meadows in La Verne, noted the low hill 50 yards in front of him and remembered that beyond the hill was a good-sized lake. He hit the ball, which "bounced over the hill and I was sure into the water. I hit another one and it did the same exact thing."
Wilkins trudged up the hill and down to the lake, where a cheerful man in a rubber frogman's suit and mask popped out of the water, held out a round white object and said, "I believe this is your ball." Wilkins thanked him, picked up a second ball that the frogman had placed on the bank of the lake and calmly walked around the water hazard.
Famous Names a Bonus
Both are doctors at Childrens Hospital of Los Angeles, in its division of gastroenterology and nutrition. Both are on the faculty of the USC School of Medicine.
Impressive, right? OK, meet Dr. Frank Sinatra, director of the division of gastroenterology, and his associate, Dr. Danny Thomas.
Not only are their famous names not a problem, Sinatra said, but they sometimes help relieve some of the stress weighing on parents of the seriously ill children who are their patients.
"A joke or comment about our names sometimes breaks the tension, especially when we talk together with parents at the same time," Sinatra said. "It can help loosen them up."
As for his own name, Sinatra said "it's working out better as time goes on and we are seeing younger and younger parents. Frank Sinatra is a staying power in entertainment, but the younger parents are not the bobby-soxers of the '40s and '50s.
"And I have no problems elsewhere, out of the hospital. I've grown up with the Frank Sinatra name and, once you've heard all the jokes, you can laugh. In fact, I can come back with lines that are better than the ones people use to kid me."
The Power of Speech
Lani Scines, a 19-year-old cerebral palsy victim confined to a wheelchair, is still seeing the fruits of an award she won a year ago.
As an honor student at Barstow High School, Scines took second place in the speech division of the Bill of Rights competitions sponsored by Coast Savings & Loan Assn. Her $500 award included a matching gift to her school, which is using it to restore a once-defunct speech program.
"This . . . will help young people think more about the issues that impact on all of us," said Scines, now a pre-law student at California State University, San Bernardino.
For her personally, Scines said, public speaking and forensic competition is a way to express the independence that her illness diminishes.
"In physical areas, I'm normally very dependent on others," she said. "Public speaking allows me to formulate ideas and to influence people. I'm in total command of the situation and through my words I am able to hold the attention of others."
Around the Office
Office conversation, 1985: Co-worker to a staff expert on computers: "Do you have a personal computer at home?" Programmer: "No. Does a farmer bring his cow in the house?"