Les Tupper Awards to honor community volunteers

A horse lover who has helped form the city’s network of trails, the staff sergeant for a food pantry, and a student who helped build a library for others are among the volunteers to be honored Monday by the La Cañada Flintridge Coordinating Council.

The council’s annual Les Tupper Awards will be presented Monday night at Jet Propulsion Laboratory’s von Karman Auditorium. The award is named for the former La Cañada Unified School District member and longtime La Cañada cheerleader Les Tupper, who was considered “Mr. Volunteer Community Service,” acccording to coordinating council member Chuck Sambar.

This year’s winners include Girl Scout and state PTA volunteer Kathryn Battaglia; fellow high schooler, civic and political volunteer Alex Keledjian; longtime trail and school supporter Randy Strapazon; Barbara Weber, Assistance League leader and self-described “bread chair” of St. Bede the Venerable’s food giveaway efforts; the Flintridge Riding Club; and the La Cañada Baseball/Softball Assn.

Battaglia, a junior at La Cañada High School, is spending this week with 3,000 like-minded people at a statewide PTA conference in Sacramento, leading an effort to increase student involvement in the organization led by parents and teachers.

“In order for them to get the most out of what they are doing, they have to have students’ perspective,” Battaglia said.

Separately, Battaglia and her friend Samantha Smith raised $7,000 to revamp a library as a Girl Scout project for students in an impoverished part of Los Angeles. Smith was in charge of improving the structure, Battaglia said, while Battaglia acquired bins, benches and reading material, then catalogued 50,000 books by reading level.

Fellow La Cañada High student Alex Keledjian is treasurer of the La Cañada Flintridge Republican Club and is a member of the city’s Youth Council. Keledjian said one of his goals on the council — and an effort he will continue when his term ends later this year — is to launch an internship program allowing students to work with city government officials and in the schools, as well as with private businesses.

Like others who received the award, Keledjian said he was shocked.

“There are lot of people in this community who have done more than I have,” he said.

Strapazon fell in love with La Cañada trails when she moved here decades ago, and she has been a key figure in the La Cañada Flintridge Trail Council’s efforts to expand local trails. She and her chestnut mare, Testy One, or her quarter-horse, Half Pint, are often abroad in the hills.

Strapazon also worked closely with the PTA over the years, helping to expand multicultural programs at La Cañada Elementary School in the 1980s when the demographics of the city were rapidly changing; launching a middle school program to provide teachers a set of textbooks so kids wouldn’t have to lug around dangerously heavy backpacks; then serving among the dedicated legions of band parents when her children were in high school.

Strapazon emphasized that behind every good volunteer stands a supportive family. “The dinner table is always full of projects instead of dinner,” she said, “and nobody seems to mind.”

Weber has helped put food on the table from La Cañada to Skid Row for nearly three decades alongside the St Bede’s Cadets.

“I’m the bread chairman,” she said. “It is appropriate that my last name is Weber.”

St. Bede’s makes and delivers to shelters around the region 1,000 sandwiches a week, as well as hot meals served in Los Angeles and elsewhere. Weber also is the co-chair of the Assistance League’s Bargain Box, the thrift store on Oakwood Avenue.

The store, she said, serves multiple purposes, from providing an inexpensive shopping outlet and a place to recycle items to raising funds for other local charities through sales.

Flintridge Riding Club volunteer Susan Azad is expected to accept the award for the club, a 90-year-old institution that has been the home to Olympic riders and countless youth equestrians. The club raises money every year for Huntington Memorial Hospital with its annual horse show and hosts the MACH 1 show for disabled children. Azad notes that for equestrians, it all starts with a love of nature.

“The members of Flintridge Riding Club understand and embrace our role as stewards of this landmark site,” Azad wrote in an email.

The La Cañada Baseball/Softball Assn. keeps nearly 900 local youths busy on the ball field, but also plays a key role in keeping the fields green. League President Jack Johnson said the association poured some $40,000 into field maintenance and upgrades last year, with help from the Boy Scouts, and will do the same this year.

For more information on the awards ceremony, visit www.lcfcc.info.

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