Friends of School Mental Health will celebrate its 14th annual awards ceremony at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday, May 23rd, in the Ahmanson North Room at Loyola Marymount University (LMU) in Westchester.

At the event, sponsored by Playa Vista, Friends of School Mental Health will honor outstanding educators, mental health professionals and supporters for their significant contribution to the social and emotional needs of children.

Among the honorees are:

Rosalio Mu“oz Pupil Service and Attendance Award: Velma D. Davis-Hayes, M.Ed., SARB (School Attendance Review Board) chairperson;

Marion McCammond Social Work Award: Suzanne J. Markley, L.C.S.W., psychiatric social worker;

Marleen Wong Crisis Team Member Award: Buren R. Simmons, director, Youth Relations/ Crime Prevention;

Alfred T. Clark, Jr. Service to Children and Youths Award: Mark Douglas Coates, special education teacher; and

Supportive Friend of Mental Health Awards: Sibyl Buchanan, director of Community Affairs, Playa Vista; and Jerome Joseph, LAUSD plant manager, Willenberg Special Education Center.

The organization, which raises funds to assist Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) students whose life situations affect their ability to attend and learn at school, provides emergency funding for students and their families until other agencies can step in and provide the appropriate planning and assistance.

For example, Friends of School Mental Health recently provided school supplies to four students whose mother, a victim of domestic violence, was temporarily unable to seek employment due to her situation.

The organization has paid for everything from GED (general equivalency diploma) test fees and art supplies to school clothing and bus tokens. One first-grader even received funding for new glasses that her unemployed parents could not afford to purchase on their own. In the past 14 years, more than 1,000 children and families have received emergency grants.

Information on the event or about Friends, www.fsmh.net/.

PLAYA SUNRISE ROTARIANS DONATIONS — The Playa Sunrise Rotary Club recently presented a $600 donation to the CowaNature Center to support the continued development of an outdoor nature center for neighboring Los Angeles Unified School District schools and the community.

Nestled in the canyon bluffs behind Cowan Avenue Elementary School in Westchester, the CowaNature Center is an acre of land that is being restored to provide a beautiful, environmentally friendly, educational outdoor haven for all to enjoy.

Playa Sunrise Rotary Club president Paul Maynard and vice president Gwen Vuchsas presented the check to Sheri Weitz, founder and co-chair of the CowaNature Center Project.

“It is because of the amazing generosity from organizations such as the Rotary that our dream is closer to becoming reality,” Weitz said. “We still have a lot of work to do on the CowaNature Center which, when completed, will provide opportunities for hands-on learning about the environment, science and nature. Donations are greatly appreciated. Learn all about us on our Web site, www.cowanaturecen ter.org”

Maynard also presented a $500 check to John Ruhlen, president of the Westchester Streetscape Improvement Association, to support the beautification of local streetscapes.

This association is a joint effort between the city, the Los Angeles Department of Transportation and the community to create a vision for a long-awaited new Sepulveda Boulevard with a multifaceted roadway and pedestrian-friendly streetscape. The city provided seed money for community design workshops, augmented by local property owners.

The first project phase has a budget of $5.8 million for right-turn lanes, new street trees and landscaped medians along the Sepulveda Corridor from Manchester Avenue to Lincoln Boulevard.

In subsequent phases, the Westchester Streetscape Improvement Association hopes to include curvilinear sidewalks, new streetlights and inlaid blue terrazzo plaques commemorating historical individuals in aviation positioned along the walkways.

“The enhancement of one of the major arteries in our community will make the Westchester business center more pedestrian friendly and welcoming,” Ruhlen said.

CHAMBERFEST 2007 — Now in its third year, the LAX Coastal Area Chamber of Commerceís ChamberFest is scheduled to be held from 5 to 8 p.m. Thursday, May 24th, at the CenterPointe Club, 6200 Playa Vista Drive in Playa Vista.

Chamberfest is billed as a one-of-a-kind event that includes an indoor/outdoor business expo, networking mixer and mini “taste-of” event all rolled into one. It will be a great opportunity to check out local businesses and the products and services they offer.

Last year, more than 100 businesses exhibited their products and services to an eager and interested crowd. In addition, many of the areaís most delicious and enticing restaurants will offer ChamberFest visitors delicious samples of some of their menuís most popular items.

Admission and parking for the event are free.

ChamberFest will also feature entertainment, giveaways and chances to win raffle prizes.

Information, the LAX Coastal Area Chamber of Commerce, at (310) 645-5151.

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