VALLEY MAN HONORED FOR SAVING LIVES.
The American Ambulance Association will honor Chatsworth resident Jonathan Graves with a national Star of Life award May 7 in Washington, D.C.
Graves, 31, a paramedic who works at American Medical Response Station 444, will be honored for life-saving volunteer service he performs for some of the world's neediest people during leaves from his regular job. An inscription accompanying the award praises Graves, 31, for ``giving consistent care, displaying the highest level of professionalism and greatest commitment to saving lives.''
As a volunteer, Graves traveled to Nepal in 1995 and 1997, and last year he went to Cambodia. Each time he raised up to $3,000 for the trip with a delegation from Church on the Way in Van Nuys.
``I am going to do this for the rest of my life, for as long as I can,'' said Graves. ``When I see these people, who have nothing, so grateful for my help ... it makes me feel indescribable.''
Graves has traveled long distances on foot to help patients, and sometimes he has created makeshift stretchers to carry the sick back to a mobile hospital.
``I wanted to use my skill where it's never been seen before,'' he said.
Free wigs are being provided at Olive View-UCLA Medical Center, Sylmar, for uninsured women with cancer who are suffering from hair loss.
Organized by parishioner Marita McCarthy, the Wig Exchange is an outreach program through St. Michael's All Angels Episcopal Church in Studio City.
``We were looking to provide help where there might be a gap in services. We were interested in assisting people with life-threatening and end-of-life issues,'' she said.
One morning a week, McCarthy and other parishioners meet patients at the hospital to provide wigs and offer emotional support.
``Some of these people sit for hours waiting for their chemotherapy treatments,'' she said. Some patients don't speak English as a first language, she added.
``Initially, I was worried about the language barrier, but people really understand your intent,'' she said. ``It's a wonderful, spiritual ... human experience.''
McCarthy wants to provide music tapes for the waiting patients and help with bus fare to get them to their treatments.
Brunette wigs are especially sought, McCarthy said, but all hair colors are acceptable and will be given for use by cancer patients.
For more information, contact McCarthy at the church (818) 762-3168.
Achievement has been rewarded with special recognition for some local students.
Christopher Arntzen from Moorpark has been offered a $20,000 four-year Western University Exchange scholarship to attend Montana State University at Bozeman.
The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards were given last week to several local students at a reception held at the Richard Nixon Library in Yorba Linda.
Recipients are twin sisters Charlene Riofrio and Jennifer Riofrio from Louisville High School, Amruti Borad and Jose Mejia Jr. from El Camino High School and Miriam Nguyen and Nathalie Pham from Taft High School.
Granada Hills High School senior Jacob Kantor has been given a dean's scholarship at Coe College in Cedar Rapids, Mich. He is a Chatsworth resident.
Some other local residents are award winners.
Michelle Bertsch from the Simi Valley Police Department was named California Officer of the Year in the Drug Abuse Resistance Education program at a ceremony April 2 in Concord, Calif.
Bertsch has presented the DARE program to more than 3,000 children since 1996.
Retired professor Bess Lomax Hawes, who was a 1993 National Medal of Arts winner, will be recognized Sunday at California State University, Northridge, for distinguished achievements as an internationally recognized folklorist and scholar. CSUN President Jolene Koester will conduct the ceremony at 7 p.m. in the Performing Arts Center.
Valley Beth Shalom Day School donated a $65,000 ambulance Wednesday to Magen David Adom, the Israeli equivalent of the American Red Cross, in commemoration of the 54th anniversary of the state of Israel.
Funds for the ambulance were raised by students, their families and faculty.
Paramedic Jonathan Graves befriends an orphan during his volunteer service in Cambodia last year. Often walking long distances to help the ill in remote areas, the Chatsworth resident also has volunteered in Nepal.