Times' Awards Recognize Service to Communities

For their exemplary efforts on behalf of others, six nonprofit groups and six volunteers received awards Tuesday at the Los Angeles Times Valley and Ventura County editions' 1998 Community Partnership and Volunteers of Distinction Awards Luncheon.

Nearly 300 people attended this year's program, held at the Hyatt Westlake Plaza, where Ventura County and Valley-area organizations accepted a total of $45,000 in grants.

"Supporting outstanding nonprofit programs is part of The Times' ongoing commitment to the communities we serve," said Julia C. Wilson, president of the Ventura County and Valley editions of The Times. "We are proud to recognize organizations which are providing the vital services that make a difference in people's lives."

The ninth Community Partnership Awards honored programs in Ventura County and the San Fernando, Santa Clarita and Antelope valleys. Each of the winning organizations received a $5,000 grant from The Times. Awards were given in six categories.

The Ventura County winners were the Assn. for Retarded Citizens of Ventura County, in social services; the Free Clinic of Simi Valley, in health services, and Food Share Inc. of Oxnard, in youth and education services.

Valley-area winners were the Santa Clarita Valley Food Pantry, in senior services; the Bethune Theatredanse of Los Angeles, in cultural arts, and the Theodore Payne Foundation for Wildflowers and Native Plants of Sun Valley, in environment and ecology services.

The Volunteers of Distinction Awards recognized individuals whose service has made a difference to a nonprofit organization. All individual recipients will have $2,500 donated to the charity of their choice. Those awards also were given in six categories.

The Ventura County winners were Shellie Kwitkowski, 15, of Concerned People for Animals Inc. of Oxnard, in service by youth; and Ellen Blair, 83, of HELP of Ojai Inc., for community service.

A volunteer for two years, Shellie has rescued and cared for 95 abandoned dogs and cats in the last year alone. She has also developed the organization's contracts, forms and booklets.

"I never expected anything for doing this," she said. "I do it for the animals."

Blair puts in dozens of hours a month with HELP of Ojai by delivering Meals on Wheels. She also volunteers at San Antonio Elementary School.

"I'm amazed to get this," she said. "HELP is the most marvelous place. It's done more for me than I've done for it."

San Fernando Valley winners were Vickie Johnson of the Pacoima Community Youth Culture Center, for her service to children; Monika Pfluegler of the Foundation for Children's Dental Health of Santa Clarita, in health services; Sharon Mountford of the Angeles Chorale in Northridge, for her service in arts; and Margaret Hampton of the San Fernando Valley Law Auxiliary in Calabasas, for her service in education.

All 12 winners will be considered for additional awards--one for an organization and one for an individual--in competition with winners from Metropolitan Los Angeles and Orange County, Wilson said. Recipients of those awards will be announced July 8.

The Community Partnership Awards and Volunteers of Distinction award recipients were selected by a 12-member panel of community and business leaders from Ventura County and northern Los Angeles County.

The Community Partnership and Volunteers of Distinction award programs are open to all tax-exempt nonprofit organizations.

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