Working as a school nurse, Carol Kanode encountered a 14-year-old abandoned by her mother, who had turned to the streets selling drugs and becoming a prostitute.
Kanode was moved by the girl's plight and compelled to do something.
"She needed a safe place to go," said Kanode of the incident seven years ago. "I didn't want that to happen anymore."
Kanode formed a committee of other concerned people in her Huntington Beach community with a dream to one day open a shelter for homeless teens who are in crisis situations.
In January, the 18-bed shelter finally opened in a restored older house in Central Park. Since then, the Huntington Youth Shelter has been a refuge for 41 youths ranging in age from 11 to 17.
Kanode recently was honored as "Woman of the Year" for Orange County's 67th Assembly District for her work.
"I was surprised and grateful," Kanode said. "It means that the issues I represent, that of children, are in the forefront. It also means I was singled out when there are a lot of other people also doing good work. It's an honor."
Kanode was selected by Assemblywoman Doris Allen (R-Cypress), who said Kanode was "willing to get totally involved with her community in a positive way."
The shelter, co-founded by social worker Irene Briggs, is sanctioned by the city of Huntington Beach and its Police Department.
Kanode also is a member of the Ocean View Elementary School District school board and was instrumental in starting a free program that brought medical, social and mental health services to one school site to assist needy students and their families.
Kanode also helped form the local cable show, "Youth Forum," aimed at teen-agers, their problems and questions.
"We also deal with issues that would help the community understand teens and for parents to be better educated about teen issues such as AIDS, depression, gangs and how to talk to your teen," she said.
Kanode, who has three daughters, said of her work with teen-agers: "We've got to take care of this group of people. Our youth are our citizens and leaders of tomorrow."