Luna family benefit; Fire Station 95 pancake breakfast; Rotarians set book drive record

Following this year’s annual Fourth of July parade presented by the LAX Coastal Area Chamber of Commerce, the City of Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks will join with the Neighborhood Council of Westchester/Playa del Rey to hold the first Westchester Stars & Stripes Community Picnic at Westchester Park, on the southeast corner of Lincoln Boulevard and Manchester Avenue.

The parade starts at the Loyola Marymount University 80th Street entrance at 11 a.m. and follows along Loyola Boulevard to Westchester Park and includes floats, marching bands, and community service groups.

From 12:30 to 4 p.m. Friday, July 4th, the community is invited to stay at Westchester Park after the parade for an old-fashioned picnic complete with entertainment, food, children’s activities and much, much more. The picnic will include food booths, where a variety of foods can be purchased from a host of local restaurants, as well as supervised children’s activities, including a jumper, games and arts and crafts.

“Our goal is to follow the very successful Fourth of July parade with a wholesome family event to celebrate our community and our nation’s birthday,” said Sibyl Buchanan and Mary Taylor, co-chairs of the event for the Neighborhood Council of Westchester/Playa del Rey. “We are expecting thousands of people to attend, and we encourage everyone to bring a blanket, folding chairs and an appetite for great food and entertainment.”

Scott Carni of the Westchester Park Advisory Board said, “The Picnic is a perfect add-on to the parade, and we’re proud the park is able to host such an event. Our intention is to showcase our wonderful facilities and all of the programs available right here at Westchester Recreational Center.

“The community is rediscovering the park in amazing numbers, and the Stars & Stripes Picnic is part of those efforts. Bring your family and friends, this is going to be a lot of fun for all.”

The Ho-Dads will perform with their unique brand of high-energy music, colorful costumes, celebrity impersonations and audience participation.

The event will also provide an opportunity for community members to meet the elected representatives of the Neighborhood Council of Westchester/Playa, who will be presenting the 2008 Stars of the Neighborhood Awards, recognizing members of the public who have gone above and beyond the call in helping their community.

The Stars & Stripes Picnic’s major sponsors include Playa Vista, The Real Estate Consultants, Panda Express, Loyola Marymount University, Los Angeles World Airports, Coldwell Banker, Decron Properties, the Custom Hotel and Bristol Farms.

In addition, a variety of non-profit and other organizations will have booths at the event to show off their products and services. Frances Stronks, Westchester Park Advisory Board president said, “This will be a wonderful opportunity to check out the many community activities available for adults and children alike, and to enjoy the recreational jewel we have here in our own Westchester Park.”

Information about the Stars & Stripes Picnic, Scott Carni (310), 739-9622.

LUNA FUNDRAISER — On Sunday, July 20th, the Westchester community will band together for a barbecue and benefit fair to help the family of a local citizen, handyman Ignacio Luna. The event will be held from noon to 6 p.m. in the Washington Mutual parking lot at 7151 Manchester Ave. in Westchester (just east of the intersection at Lincoln Boulevard).

Luna was riding in a van carrying his wife and four of their five children May 26th, when their van was struck broadside by a speeding SUV at the intersection of Florence Avenue and Crenshaw Boulevard. Three of the couple’s children died in the accident — 12- year-old Carlitos Luna, seven-year-old Tanya Ayala, and four-year-old Alexis Ayala. Two others died in the collision, and more than 20 were injured, many critically, including the four-year-old victim’s twin sister, as well as Luna and his wife.

The fundraiser will feature smokehouse barbecue, a beer and wine garden, silent auctions/live auctions/raffles (for items including signed L.A. Lakers memorabilia and dinner gift certificates), live music and a DJ. For the kids, there will be cotton candy, snow cones, face painting, a bounce house, ice cream and bubble machines.

There will also be a Battalion 4 Firehouse Chili Cookoff pitting fire stations Venice No. 63, Mar Vista No. 62, Playa Vista No. 67, and Westchester Nos. 5, 95, 51 and 80 against each other. All proceeds will go directly to the Luna family.

Parking will be available at Bristol Farms and Westchester Park.

Co-sponsoring the event are Tompkins Square Bar & Grill; Heather Lemmon and Joe Bernardi/LB Property Management; The Real Estate Consultants; the Printing Spot; Capistrano’s; Playa Pacifica; the Los Angeles Fire Department; and Decron Properties, a Playa del Rey real estate firm that employs Luna.

Two funds have been set up to assist the family. For more information, contact Heather Lemmon, (310) 846-0034, or Billy Tompkins, (310) 670-1212.

FIRE STATION NO. 95 FUNDRAISER — The public is invited to attend a Business Pancake Breakfast to help support upgrades to Los Angeles Fire Department Station No. 95 from 7:30 to 10 a.m., Tuesday, July 8th, at the station, 10010 International Road in Westchester.

The cost of the breakfast is $5, and parking will be available on International Road. There will be tours throughout the morning hosted by the firemen and the Renovation Committee at No. 95.

Keynote speakers at the event will include Los Angeles World Airports (the city agency that operations Los Angeles International Airport) executive director Gina Marie Lindsey, Los Angeles City Councilmember Bill Rosendahl and Fire Chief Douglas Barry.

“Several months back, after hearing of the devastating loss of our first responder, Brent Lovrien, it was brought to my attention from the council office that Fire Station No. 95 was in dire need of a renovation,” said Heather Lemmon, who helped organize the event. “When I first drove up it was obvious that this fire station was a dilapidated station from the peeling paint on the exterior, to the cracked concrete apron, to the very sad flag pole in the front.

“I was appalled at what I saw and I am utterly disgusted that our first responders have to live in these conditions in this day and age.

“From the roof leaks to cracked concrete with resultant mildew/ mold growth, to the fallen ceiling tiles, to the original forced air unit and constant cleaning of black debris, to the missing tiles and doors in the bathroom, to the dry rotted doors, to the peeling paint inside and out, to the painted single-pane windows adjacent to Century Boulevard and right under the flight path, to the fumes of the engines and Century Boulevard is what they get to enjoy while working out in their makeshift gym on the apparatus floor.”

Lemmon added that she and the renovation committee researched potential sources of funding and determined that a community fundraiser was the only way to inject much-needed funds into the station.

The Rotary Club of Westchester has joined in the support of this very worthy cause and has set up a fund to receive checks on behalf of this renovation project.

Tax deductible donations may be made to Westchester Rotary Foundation, P.O. Box 91543, Los Angeles 90009-1543.

Information, call Heather Lemmon, (310) 846-0017.

ROTARIANS SET WORLD RECORD — The Rotary Clubs of Westchester and Playa Sunrise did their part to make sure the Wide World of Books project sets a world record for the largest book drive ever during the Rotary International convention June 15th to 18th at the Los Angeles Convention Center.

Playa Sunrise Rotary Club president Kathrine Russell said the club gathered over 100 children’s books in the weeks leading up to the convention in preparation for the drive.

“We’re thrilled to be a part of this very special project that benefits our children by promoting literacy and cross-cultural awareness,” Russell said.

Westchester Rotary Club president Warren Bobrow added that his club donated a wide array of children’s books from the club’s annual book sale to the effort as well.

At the invitation of the Southern California and Southern Nevada Rotary clubs hosting the convention, many of the nearly 20,000 registrants from more than 140 countries brought children’s books representing their home cultures and languages for the Wide World of Books project.

This international book drive, co-sponsored by the Los Angeles Times’ Reading by 9 program, gathered 242,624 books to be donated to public school students in kindergarten through third grade throughout the region, where studies show too many children read below grade level.

An adjudicator from Guinness World Records was present to certify that the project was the largest book drive ever completed in one week. Even Rotary members unable to make the trip to Los Angeles were involved, either by shipping books directly to the conven- tion or by contributing through a “virtual book drive.”

During the convention, a symbolic “mountain of books” welcomed convention registrants and members of the public in the atrium of the Los Angeles Convention Center, where Rotary members read to local schoolchildren.

“It is symbolic that the mountain of books was built atop the world map in the atrium’s floor design,” said local Rotary leader Ingo Werk, who chaired the project, noting that nearly 100 languages are spoken throughout the diverse Los Angeles Unified School District.

The book drive is just one example of the hundreds of literacy-related projects supported by Rotary clubs worldwide.

“Literacy is crucial in determining a person’s overall academic, professional and personal success,” said Werk.

The Rotary convention is the humanitarian service organization’s most important meeting of the year, giving members from around the world an opportunity to plan service projects, share success stories and renew acquaintances. It is often described as a “mini-United Nations” due to its international and cultural diversity.