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There assembled, under one beautifully arching roof, were the caretakers of The Canyon, the embassies of emergencies, the protectors of properties, defenders of disasters, watchers of weather, the networking neighbors, the heroes of HAM (radio), the agents of aid, the scions of survival, otherwise known as the Topanga Coalition for Emergency Preparedness or T-CEP. The group's annual award brunch was hosted at that idyllic Mermaid site by those perfectly suited to the task, the ever- attractive and animated Gail McDonald-Tune and steadfast Bill Buerge.

2009 T-CEP Awards Brunch

Back row (: Bo Tasker, Andrea Makshanoff; Front : Janice Harmon; T-CEP 2009 Volunteer of the Year Lynn Dickhoff and Gail McDonald-Tune

copy on this page Excerpted from Topanga Messenger, May 7, 2009http://livepage.apple.com/http://livepage.apple.com/shapeimage_2_link_0

The day was lovely with a soft breeze in the air, butterflies flitting about and flowers blooming. However, all T-CEP volunteers know that even beneath a fair and cloudless day in April, disaster in Topanga is always a possibility. T-CEP has been a volunteer organization created in 1993 by Pat MacNeil, Gabrielle Lamirand and Vic Richards. It has grown into a well-respected, highly organized and essential part of our community interacting with county and state agencies in times of emergencies to keep Topanga informed and safe. They are our lifeline.

After a luscious buffet brunch from the Inn of the Seventh Ray, the awards were presented to this year's deserving recipients. T-CEP Chair, Pat MacNeil, stood in front of the Mermaid's cozy fireplace and addressed the room full of a large number of capable, trained, efficient, volunteers who seemed to project the feeling of one big happy, always vigilant family. Representing Supervisor Zev Yaroslovsky's office was field deputy Cynthia Scott who honored the recipients as well.

"What do you save in an emergency evacuation?" asked MacNeil. "I know you have to take the important papers and photos, but I can't help worry about my Santa collection in the attic. They would be gone."

This seemed to momentarily cast a pall over the group, as they previously had made several fond references to the gregarious MacNeil Christmas parties. I suspect each member will be on extra alert this year to keep our community and the Santas safe.

For his outstanding work in communication for T-CEP, Norm Goodkin was presented with the unique and appropriate Elmer Award. Evidently, in Ham-speak, an experienced operator who teaches and mentors a student is called an Elmer, hence the well deserved award named just for him.Lauded by MacNeil as a Ham Radio Missionary, Mr. Goodkin and his entire family are licensed and expert operators who are always teaching and recruiting more into the radio fold. Due to Norm's instruction, more than one hundred eighth graders from A. C. Stelle Middle School have been licensed in the last three years. It is said that Naomi, Norm's wife, had to become a Ham before they could be married or even engaged. Now they hold regular instruction courses and work tirelessly with the City of Calabasas, Disaster Communications Service, the Sheriff's Department, Disaster Response Teams, Boy Scouts, PAPA Disaster Radio Team and our own T-CEP Disaster Radio Team. In an emergency, if regular lines of communications fail, Norm Goodkin and his team will be on the job getting pertinent and life-saving information to those in need. His service is invaluable.

Alli Acker, who combines both beauty and brains, has been involved with T-CEP almost since the beginning. Having grown up in Topanga, where she arrived when only two-days-old, she has developed extensive knowledge of the geography of our community that could prove to be of great use in times of emergency. States MacNeil, "Alli used to ride her horse through Topanga as a girl and her attention to detail, for which she is known, has enabled her to identify every street, curve in the road and every hill and ridge in our canyon."

Concerned with the safety of Topanga horses, Acker worked with community horse owners about safety and evacuation plans in case of disaster. She eventually developed a program called the Los Angeles County Department of Animal Care and Control Equine Response Team. A practicing lawyer who, with an assist from her husband, Tim Sylvester, helped T-CEP become incorporated and write the group's original by-laws. Acker has also served on the Board of Directors and was elected Vice President. It should further be known that, in addition to being a delightful and valuable member of our community, that she is also the wonderful mother of two truly fine children, CC and Alden, who will no doubt follow in her caring and productive footsteps.

James Grasso proved to be a man of few words when presented with his Can Do award. Noted for an impressive set of skills and tools, Grasso is looked upon as being a man-and-a-half. His service includes Arson Watch, Red Cross and disaster training, Topanga CERT and acting as an extraordinary T-CEP incident liaison during Canyon and Corral Fires. In order to assure access past heavy traffic and blocked roadways, he utilized two different kinds of bikes and was even able to supply the Incident Status Board with photos. Grasso is a deeply appreciated and admired member of the Coalition and rightfully so. He was honored for his motivated assistance to the community in times of need, past, present and into the future.

The recipient of the T-CEP Volunteer of the Year Award for 2009 was kept a secret. A buzz of excitement went through the room as Chair MacNeil began the presentation. When she reported that this year's winner was a third-generation Topanga native, born into the Haines family, a surprised "yip" escaped from deserving and modest Lynn Dickoff. A former Peace Corp volunteer, Dickoff is a boon to our community as she continues to be involved in extensive service and duty. Her volunteer work includes, T-CEP's Hotline Team, DRT, Topanga Historical Society, revising The Topanga Story, Neighborhood Networking and organizing Meals on Wheels in the Canyon. Active as a Red Cross Team leader, she is responsible for opening the Red Cross shelter during any major incident as well as providing training classes and sharing her expertise and knowledge. Her proficiency in the Spanish language, which she taught, has enabled her to act as an interpreter in simulation with Spanish speaking volunteers. She also is a licensed Ham. One might not know, judging by her slight physique and gentle nature (she loves flowers), that she is such a strong and powerful woman, but her immense essence is awesome and far more oak then daisy.

Dickhoff says, "I've seen lots of changes over the years, but can't think of a better place to live. It would be difficult to find another community with such interesting people who look out for each other and work together to make it a better place for all." This remarkable woman is a gift to Topanga.

There was yet one final surprise and award. After 16 years of chairing T-CEP, MacNeil announced she would be retiring. "It's time," she said. An award was then presented to both Pat and Jack MacNeil for their unwavering service. It was called the, "You said you didn't want an award" Award. The community owes them a great debt of gratitude.

It was promised the Christmas parties would continue.


By Kathie Gibboney

Without question the absolutely safest place to have been in Topanga

on Saturday April 25, was the marvelous Mountain Mermaid.