On the Town: 'Women of Courage' are honored at luncheon

“The Glendale Commission on the Status of Women is the most active commission in the city.” That's according to Glendale Mayor Frank Quintero. Led by Commission Chairman Paula Devine, the 8th Annual Jewels of Glendale Awards Luncheon on Thursday (May 10) was the best ever. And that's according to yours truly.

The Oakmont Country Club was a jewel of a setting. Some 275 supporters were there to honor five Women of Courage: Lori Hartwell, Christine Hovnanian, Betty Porto and her sister Margarita Navarro, and Suzonne Slaughter. Former Glendale Mayor Eileen Givens was also honored with the Special Chair's Recognition, and Aimee Yeghiayan was the Gem Scholarship Awardee.

This column doesn't have the space to laud each of these women's impressive accomplishments and their heartbreaks along the way. But two sisters and their mother (who received a standing ovation) were standouts in this reporter's opinion. Here is a little of their history:

Porto, Navarro and brother Raul Jr. escaped Cuba in 1971 with their parents, Rosa Porto and Raul Porto. Family members pitched in to sell cakes baked in their Southern California home kitchen. Eventually, they owned three Porto's bakeries (including the Glendale and Burbank locations). Porto's is one of the most lucrative bakery and sandwich enterprises in the U.S.

The whole family worked in their Glendale shop, originally with room to sit 10. Betty was in charge of sales. She is now vice president of community relations. Margarita did the cake decoration. She is now vice president of operations. Today, Betty and Margarita run the business with Raul Jr. as CEO.

Other members of the Commission are Vice Chair Denise Miller, Commissioners Lynda Burns, Chris Garsevanian, Vatche Tashjian, Students Ex Officio Jaclyn Alcazar and Natalie Sarukhanian. Congratulations to all.

The city's finest may be great cops, and some of them may have lacked golfing finesse on the links at the La Cañada Flintridge County Club. But all of them are more than generous. On May 7, 144 members of the Glendale Police Officers' Assn., their friends and supporters played in the 21st Annual Cops For Kids Charity Golf Tournament.

Officer Larry Ballesteros was chairman of the Golf Tournament. One of his able assistants was tournament committee member Officer Bryan Dunckn. Another VIP on the scene was Officer Patricia Larrigan, committee chairman for Cops for Kids. Larrigan sat on the Club's patio over looking the course and made her phone calls while the guys played. At least someone was minding the store.

The tournament's schedule of events called for an early continental breakfast, registration, a shotgun start at 8:00 am and a 3:00 p.m. lunch provided by Outback Steakhouse and Randall Hill. The day went a little longer, since a few of the foursomes looked as if they were planning their golfing strategies with the same care they plan their stake-outs.

Ballesteros has been involved with Cops for Kids for about 13 years. Cops for Kids was founded 25 years ago by two Glendale Police sergeants, Sgt. Ron Insalaco and Retired Sgt. Al Frazier. Their goal was to create positive contact between area children and law enforcement officers. The program has been supported through donations from the Glendale Police Officers' Assn., community members, local businesses and private citizens. The success of the annual golf tournaments has made it possible for the Cops for Kids Program to sponsor events and distribute toys to underprivileged and disabled children. The main activity that tournament proceeds go to is the adoption of 15 to 20 families during the Christmas season. The Glendale Kiwanis Club financially contributes to this Adopt-a-Family program. As Kiwanis co-chairman of youth services, Judy Seelig was on hand to help coordinate Kiwanis participation with that of the Glendale Police Officers' Assn.

Tournament Sponsors were Sam and Suzanna Solakyan. Assn. members also generously support the golf tournaments as sponsors. This year's sponsors included retired Lt. Gary Montecuollo, now Glendale Community College police chief.

First Place winners were members of the Burbank Police Dept. in the Safety category and members of Services for Police and Fire in the Open category.

Ballesteros estimates that tournament proceeds will reach $15,000 to $18,000.

RUTH SOWBY may be reached at ruthasowby@gmail.com.

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