Vicki Schwartz remembers the first time she came to La Cañada Flintridge in 1988, when she and new husband Brad were visiting friends for a Memorial Day barbecue and were invited to check out the city’s Fiesta Days Parade.
“I think I was in tears that day (from) how cute the parade was — floats, marchers, dogs, children, bikes,” she recalled. “Even though we’d bought a house in Burbank two months before, we sold it and moved to La Cañada in less than a year.”
That same innate affection for the community’s charm, traditions and people would make Schwartz the perfect pitch woman for La Cañada in 2016 as she placed the city on an international stage, founding the La Cañada Flintridge Sister Cities Assn.
The group was born out of a desire to share her home with the world and help students and adults have meaningful experiences with people from other cultures. Three years on, it’s become a source of civic pride for both officials and residents as La Cañada enjoys a thriving relationship with Spanish sister city Villañueva de La Cañada and forges pathways with other nations.
For her efforts in that endeavor, along with an impressive track record of volunteerism to a number of causes, Schwartz was named the Kiwanis Club of La Cañada’s “2018 La Cañadan of the Year” and celebrated in a special ceremony Wednesday at Descanso Gardens.
There, a throng of friends and well-wishers heaped praise upon the demure mother of two for her perseverance, hard work and unmistakable congeniality.
City Councilman and Sister Cities Assn. supporter Jon Curtis thanked Schwartz for providing cultural opportunities to residents, while husband Brad Schwartz shared a personal perspective of his wife’s work behind the scenes with the La Cañada Flintridge Educational Foundation, La Cañada High School parent groups and PTAs, among others.
“While Sister Cities has certainly got a lot of recognition, this is really about a 30-year love affair with La Cañada and Vicki’s service to the community,” he said.
He described her willingness to go the distance for friends and loved ones, working to include those who might feel left out, helping those in need and advocating for their betterment.
“It’s her thousands of little acts of kindness — that is ultimately why I believe she deserves this award and ultimately why I am proud to be Mr. Vicki Schwartz,” he said.
Dignitaries and elected officials’ representatives provided commendations from Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Burbank), state Sen. Anthony Portantino (D-La Cañada Flintridge), Assemblywoman Laura Friedman (D-Glendale) and L.A. County Supervisor Kathryn Barger.
Newly appointed Mayor Len Pieroni and La Cañada Unified School District Supt. Wendy Sinnette praised Schwartz for the benefits her work has brought to the school and civic communities, while local sheriff’s officials and organization leaders offered their congratulations.
In her acceptance remarks Schwartz reflected on a quote and personal maxim, “The joy that you give to others is the joy that comes back to you,” amending it slightly.
“I’m here to tell you it not only comes back to you, it comes back to you tenfold,” she said. “I am forever grateful to this community for everything [its] given my family. And today, I just feel like I’m the luckiest girl in the whole world.”