Volunteer of the Year 2016

Los Angeles County Volunteer of the Year Beth Burnam with Third District Supervisor Sheila Kuehl at April 10 “Power of One” luncheon celebrating volunteers. Photo by Scott Ferguson

In anticipation of National Volunteer Week, April 23-30, Los Angeles County officials honored outstanding volunteers.

Topangan Beth Burnam, best known for founding the North Topanga Canyon Fire Safe Council (NTCFSC), was selected by Third District Supervisor Sheila Kuehl, as 2016 Volunteer of the Year. She was one of 49 county-wide volunteers to be honored with a luncheon at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, themed “The Power of One.”

Los Angeles County counted more than 100,000 community volunteers in 2016 who gave two-million hours of community service and saved more than $53 million for the county.

“They changed lives and transformed communities,” said Program Host Suzie Suh, of CBS-TV News.

Kuehl honored Burnam as a “community leader for fire safety in the unincorporated areas of Topanga and the Santa Monica Mountains. With 108,000 people working for the county,” Kuehl said, “their work was made easier by these exemplary volunteers from the Third District.”

Lopez, Assistant Chief, County of Los Angeles Fire Department, Prevention Services Bureau, Forestry Division, worked closely with Burnam and co-president Ryan Ulyate, as they established the NTCFSC.

“Like everything else, we have our challenges, but we remained true to the task,” Lopez said. “The best part is the knowledge they’ve acquired is now embedded in the community. It is volunteers like Beth who make things happen.”

Burnam’s grandmother, Grace Garbus, born in the Oklahoma Territory, was President of the National Council of Jewish Women  that was responsible for the resettlement of all German refugees west of the Mississippi, and chaired the Child Welfare Division of the Community Chest (now the United Way).

Her mother, Marcia Burnam, led a racially diverse panel called “Portraits of American Women” in the early ‘60s. It’s goal was to undermine stereotypes one at a time.

“They are my role models for volunteerism and community activism,” she said, reminding her Topanga friends that, “April is weed whacking month. Clear your brush!”


Flavia Potenza

Flavia Potenza is executive editor of the Messenger Mountain News. She is also a founding member of the 40-year old Topanga Messenger that closed its doors in 2016. She can be reached at editor@messengermountainnews.com

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