January 20, 2022

T-CEP’s Rock Party


This small Canyon hosts a lively assortment of volunteer organizations, so for those inclined there is ample variety to choose from. Whether your interests are nature, kids, teens, religious, environmental, healing, peace, democracy, Topanga Days, historical, homeowners, business or whatever—we’ve got just the group, club or committee for it.

Few of these well-intentioned local teams are as organized, and well attended as T-CEP is. The Topanga Coalition for Emergency Preparedness came together in the wake of the ’93 fire, and the ’94 earthquake.

On March 12 the Mermaid hosted the first annual “You Rock!” T-CEP Awards Brunch. Bill Buerge’s Mountain Mermaid is a historic location in the Sylvia Park area. Bill and his partner Gail McTune and various T-CEP volunteers turned the day into a cheerful, happy celebration.

About 75 locals filled the large hall by the blazing fireplace. Bill and Gail are the most impeccable of hosts and had provided the ambience of white candles, lots of flowers and delicious food, which made people feel welcome right away. There was fresh squeezed organic orange juice and mimosas for those inclined to a bit of a.m. bubbly.

The Inn of the Seventh Ray had catered the brunch, which was underwritten by the Mermaid. The food was as always, a real treat.

“We have to honor the volunteers because without them, what have we got?” said Pat Mac Neil. “It can’t be a one or two person show. If you don’t thank your volunteers, you won’t have them for very long. You have to respect people’s time, because they do have choices. This event today is a little bit of catch-up, but we’d like to do it once a year.”

Bill employed the loud farm boy whistle that got everybody’s attention and Pat got the program underway. One-by-one she thanked all the volunteers for their various cooperative efforts—from staffing the hotline, to handling logistics, communications, Arson Watch, animal rescue and the Emergency Operations Center building teams.

Pat thanked Gabrielle Lamirand, one the founding members of T-CEP, since the long ago days of the Chill-Out Café. Gabrielle had made the trip down to the flower market that morning and brought loads of perfectly fresh roses.

Vic Richards, the longtime treasurer of the organization was honored too. Vic has been there since the early days, and provided a home for the EOC near the Christian Science Church in Old Canyon. Of course Allen Emerson, Mr. Arson Watch himself, was there. His van could hardly be overlooked, as he loves to back it into the most visible, executive parking spots.

On his 80th birthday Allen was celebrated with a huge dark chocolate mousse cake, fittingly decorated with a fire engine, the mountains, the ocean, and long windy roads in between. “Now everybody knows I’m not 55 anymore,” he says with a grin. Someone in the crowd responds, “You don’t drive 55 either.”

John Stevens won the first ever You Rock Award as the Volunteer of the Year. He is the chief logistics person and go-to-guy. John expressed his gratitude: “I’ve never volunteered anywhere else in the past 11 years. Everyone does it for their own reasons and eventually BS and politics get in the way. This has never been an issue with this organization. I’m eternally grateful to them.”

Arthur Nissman handed over a special certificate from Zev Yaroslavsky’s office. He said “I’m not as good looking or eloquent as my wife” and proceeded to read the text that contained classic language and lots of phrases starting with “Whereas.”

The You Rock Award idea came from the big boulder that fell on the road this winter. The already famous rock photo was featured on t-shirts and certificates that Bill Buerge had designed and printed. A fist-sized chunk of the original boulder was mounted and presented as the actual award. Alli Acker, from the equine response team, had secured a few pieces after it was blown up. Alli was present in her Animal Care and Control uniform. She just drove up from a special training in Long Beach and named “Pat the matriarch, and Jack the patriarch of a wonderful family called T-CEP.”

When Pat thanked Jack, her husband of 48 years, she briefly lost her voice and was moved, and moved us to tears. That’s love!

Bill Buerge gave a huge, lush planter full of lively plants to Pat, a gift from the Mermaid garden. One of these a species of Euphorbia with the fitting name “Sticks on Fire.”

It was the perfect win/win event. People were funny and relaxed, amid loud laughter and jokes being cracked. It really felt like family.

The T-CEP hotline can be reached at (310) 455-3000, and group’s website contains much useful and frequently updated info at www.t-cep.org.