The Westchester Recreation Center is gearing up for its 15th Annual Halloween Haunted House. This year, in addition to the haunted house, there will also be a carnival with games and rides.

The Haunted House event will take place Saturday through Monday, October 29th through 31st, with doors opening at 7 p.m., each night. Admission is $5.

The Haunted House is not recommended for children under eight years old. Carnival admission is free but the rides and games have various prices.

Information, Stephen Joyce, (310) 670-7473 or (310) 670-3988.

BLESSING OF ANIMALS —

At 12:30 p.m. Sunday, October 30th, B’nai Tikvah Congregation will hold its Blessing of the Animals ceremony at 8820 Sepulveda Eastway, Westchester.

Everything from dogs and cats to hamsters and even horses are invited to attend. This will be a celebration of the joy and comfort we get from our pets. Bring your pet, favorite stuffed animal, memento or even a picture to the ceremony.

“Millions of households have pets. For single people, especially seniors, a pet can be a true companion,” said Rabbi Jason van Leeuwen. “The bond between person and pet is like no other relationship.

“With the overwhelming affection we have for our furry, feathered or finned friends, it’s natural to want them to be blessed and protected.”

The Blessing of the Animals was originally celebrated on the Feast Day of St. Francis of Assisi. St. Francis (ca 1181-1226), lover of all creatures and founder of the Franciscans, is the patron saint of animals, and in his honor people of many faiths celebrate a life-affirming, critter-loving ceremony called the “Blessing of the Animals” each year.

“We hope everyone will bring (his or her) pets to this wonderful ceremony dedicated to making sure we bless and respect those animals who bring us joy every day,” van Leeuwen said.

50-PLUS-YEAR RESIDENTS SOUGHT — Members of the community who have resided in Westchester or Playa del Rey for 50 years or more are invited to contact the Westchester/Playa del Rey Historical Society to receive a “Fifty Plus” certificate signed by Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.

To make sure you are not left out, write to the Historical Society headquarters at 5614 Manchester Ave., Westchester 90045, or contact the society’s president, Patty Crockett, at (310) 505-5793 or

greenrockett@hotmail.com

Do you have a Westchester or Playa del Rey memory you’d like to share?

The Historical Society is planning to have a session early next year for the sharing of “Five-Minute Stories” based on the recollections of local residents. Contact Patty Crockett at one of the above addresses to put your story on the agenda.

MARS IS THE STAR — Have you ever seen the planet Mars through a telescope?

In early November, Mars is close to the Earth, and viewing it can be a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Those who are interested are invited to view Mars as well as Venus and the crescent moon through telescopes at a free public star party from 6:30 to 10 p.m., Friday, November 4th, in the parking lot of First Church of Christ, Scientist, Inglewood-Westchester, at 7855 Alverstone Ave., Westchester.

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The planets and moon will be well positioned for viewing in the early evening sky. Children of all ages are especially welcome. Several telescopes will be available, and participants are invited to bring their own telescopes.

Experienced amateur astronomers will be on hand to help others set up.

In case of clouds, the event will be rescheduled for a week later, Friday, November 11th.

Information, Bob Eklund, (310) 216-5947.

CHRISTMAS WREATHS MAKE Y’S GIFTS — During its more than 50-year history, the Westchester Y’s Men’s (and Women’s) Club has contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to benefit the Westchester Family YMCA and community programs with Christmas tree sales.

This year, the sale of Christmas wreaths will replace the sale of trees.

Purchases will benefit such Y programs as Youth & Government, Youth Park, Youth and Campership Programs, Scholarship Funds and the YMCA Golf Tournaments.

Also benefited will be Airport Marina Counseling Service and National and International Y’s Men’s Club.

Wreaths will be on sale starting Saturday, December 3rd, in the Westchester Family YMCA parking lot at 8015 Sepulveda Blvd., Westchester.

For pre-sale orders and information, Don Pierce (310) 670-1756 or Bob Neece (310) 670-6350.

LMU STUDENTS HELPED —In the wake of recent tragedies on the Gulf Coast, first-year graduate students in the Loyola Marymount University Department of Marital and Family Therapy offered help.

The students provided assistance through a family debriefing experience for the children of Los Angeles rescuers deployed to the region.

Children of firefighters from Los Angeles City Station No. 88 in Sherman Oaks met with students at the firehouse to engage in art therapy as a way to express feelings and initiate conversation in their homes.

Children were asked to craft a three-part booklet with sections dedicated to the child’s recent activity, their parents’ activities while away and the child’s intended activities once their parent returned.

“I am hoping that the drawings produced were able to fuel a little discussion once the families returned home” and children were able to present their booklets to their parents, said LMU master’s degree student Tim Sagafoos, who helped three children to construct their booklet.

Offering the only art therapy training in Southern California supported by a fully accredited university, the program is specifically designed to educate marriage and family therapists using clinical art therapy.

In dealing with psychological traumas such as those seen in the recent events of Hurricane Katrina, “a caring person may be able to help, but without training, the assistance may be misguided or, even more tragically, unintentionally harmful,” said Barbara J. Busse, LMU College of Communication and Fine Arts dean.

“Trained clinical therapists are educated in the use of art therapy processes to successfully engage therapeutic interventions,” said Busse.

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