Chamber event honors community leaders

During an evening reserved for celebrating community spirit, La Cañada High School junior Robin Miketta was on Thursday named Miss La Cañada Flintridge 2011, and longtime resident Margaret Pankratz was feted as the city's Ambassador of the Year for being its most active volunteer.

Held at the La Cañada Flintridge County Club, the La Cañada Flintridge Chamber of Commerce and Community Association's 99th annual Installation and Awards Dinner was more than just another local who's-who gathering.

Instead, the event honored those who've gone above and beyond in their efforts at civic involvement and sought to pass similar values on to the next generation.

"Everything I have is because of what our society offers, but our society doesn't work unless people are willing to give," Joel Peterson, born into poverty in Korea before finding success in corporate America, said after being sworn in for another year as chairman of the chamber's board.

"It's a privilege to be able to give," continued Peterson, also a member of the LCUSD Governing Board.

Taix Workout Studio owner Linda Taix was one of more than two-dozen volunteer board members sworn in for a year-long term.

"We want to make sure La Cañada remains a great city to live in, go to school in, work in and own a business in," she said, "and I want to be one of those who help."

Spotlight on service

Held up as a model for civic dedication, Pankratz was given a standing ovation for volunteering thousands of hours to chamber, city and other efforts in 2010.

Over the course of five decades in La Cañada, Pankratz has been instrumental in organizing a number of projects for the public good. Her favorites, she said, include the conversion of a neglected patch of weeds on the city's northeast side into present-day Glenola Park, the planning and dedication of Mayor's Discovery Park, numerous PTA projects and even the framed photos of former mayors on the walls of City Hall.

"I've been volunteering since my children first went to kindergarten here. It's not that they ask me to do it, [it's that] they let me do it. It's fun," she said.

The chamber also presented a number of other community service awards.

Capt. Dave Silversparre of the Crescenta Valley Sheriff's Station received the chamber's Community Service Spirit Award for business and civic outreach, but flipped that praise back to residents who've supported the station's efforts to suppress crime.

Businesswoman of the Year was local shopkeeper and chamber board member Sue Stranger, who founded the La Cañada Flintridge Merchants Association to bring more exposure to small businesses along Foothill Boulevard.

JPL was honored for Business Achievement, La Cañada High School 7/8 Principal Anais Wenn was named educator of the year, Verdugo Hills Hospital was Organization of the Year, and Rose Queen Evanne Friedmann received the group's Youth Leadership Award.

'Leadership of tomorrow'

The night's capstone announcement, however, came when Miss La Cañada Flintridge 2010 Malia Mailes passed the crown to Miketta, who will lead the town's five-member Royal Court this year in their role as youth ambassadors for the city and chamber.

"The chamber and the city have a synergistic relationship which is basically focused on improving quality of life in this city. The great thing about this program is that it brings the young people in," City Councilman Dave Spence said of the Miss La Cañada Flintridge contest, a tradition since 1971.

Miketta, 17, said she has been inspired by her parents, Brett and Lynette Miketta, to pursue a career in teaching and to take a more active role in the community.

"I can't wait to start working with the Chamber of Commerce. The group of girls I'm with on the court are absolutely amazing, and it'll be fun throughout the year. It's something to look forward to, that's for sure," she said.

Linda Eaton, a contest organizer with the La Cañada Junior Women's Club, praised this year's Miss La Cañada Flintridge court — which also includes Taani Ahluwalia of Polytechnic High School and Stephanie Bathke, Morgan Devaud and Gemma Sokol of La Cañada High School — as a remarkable group of talented and sophisticated high-school juniors.

"Recognizing young people is one way to lift them up as the leadership of tomorrow, and that's hope for all of us," said Chamber of Commerce President Pat Anderson.

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