January 20, 2022

T-CEP Says Thanks to its Volunteers


On March 11 the Mountain Mermaid hosted the Topanga Coalition for Emergency Preparedness (T-CEP) Volunteer Appreciation Brunch. The local emergency preparedness group is a lively network of volunteers. Through the impeccable experience and leadership of Pat Mac Neil, the common purpose has created a real team.

It’s a perfect spring morning, and although the hall is packed with more than 50 participants, it still feels like family. The atmosphere is warm and lively, people are happy to see each other.


T-CEP Says Thanks to its Volunteers

T-CEP volunteers were honored by humans, and a requisite Topanga canine.

There is something honorable about working together to help each other out, and the cheerful crowd assembled in the room feels that. Bill Buerge and Gail McTune are ever the most graceful of hosts. The food is light, wholesome and delicious—fruit, home-baked breads, butter, various quiches, a crisp green salad, strong coffee, sparkling juice, water or wine. It hit just the right note of celebration and abundance. The awards ceremony is a smooth, yet heartfelt process—sometimes funny, sometimes deeply moving and always in loving support. Pat tells us about the early times, when the board would meet at Elysium Fields, the legendary local nudist resort. Gabrielle Lamirand has been an active member of T-CEP since those days, and on this day she is honored as the Volunteer of the Year for 2006.

T-CEP Says Thanks to its Volunteers

T-CEP President Pat Mac Neil with Volunteer of the Year Gabrielle Lamirand.

Gabrielle has a long and colorful history in the Canyon. She was the longest reigning Topanga Chamber of Commerce President, for five years from 1992-1996, and a member of the Topanga Elementary Booster Club from 1991-93.

Here are a few quotes from Pat’s speech: “She is the kind of woman that decided to go to the Booster Club meeting for the first time to see what it was all about, and came home as President for the next year.

“A few years later she opened a business in the Canyon called the Chill-Out Cafe. That is where I really got to know her.”

During the fire of 1993, Topangans learned that there was no accurate source of information on where the fire was and the direction it was taking. Canyon residents also learned that they were going to have to take care of themselves during a disaster. This brought together a meeting of several leaders of key Topanga Canyon organizations on December 16, 1993. Gathered were Al Riggs of the Topanga Town Council, Allen Emerson of Arson Watch, Fred Feer of the Disaster Response Team, Carol Felixson, Gabrielle Lamirand and Pat Mac Neil of the Chamber of Commerce, along with Kathy Briles of the Topanga Woman’s Club.

For the next year Gabrielle took the lead in organizing T-CEP. By the way, that name did not come about until we were incorporated in 1995. This steering committee began to meet regularly at the Elysium Fields conference room and planned its first event for the Canyon on September 24, 1994—a Disaster Preparedness Fair at Topanga Elementary—which was chaired by Gabrielle. Since that time she has held various positions in T-CEP—Public Information Officer, Head of the Red Cross Team—and the one that she now holds as Fundraising Chair is the one she likes best. She has coordinated almost all of T-CEP’s fundraisers. She has the ability to bring people together and convince them they are having fun as they are working their hearts out.

T-CEP’s current Public Information Officer, Dawn Simmons had this to say: “Gabrielle introduced me to T-CEP. She is the type of person you just can’t say ‘no’ to. Along with her tremendous organizational skills, her enthusiasm and energy are extremely contagious. Just when you think you don’t have time to volunteer, she approaches and instantly you find yourself agreeing to be a part of whatever event she is chairing. She is the kind of person you want to rally around.

“I admire her ‘go get ‘em’ attitude. Did you know the large artistic Western banners that adorned our most recent Western-themed Casino fundraiser event were the property of the owner of Sage Brush Cantina? She was at the Calabasas restaurant, noticed the large banners, thought they would serve as great decorations at our fundraising event and simply asked him if she could borrow them. His answer was ‘yes.’ See what I mean? She asks and people say yes!”

Assemblymember Fran Pavley was in attendance, and Susan Nissman presented a certificate of appreciation from County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky’s office.


T-CEP Says Thanks to its Volunteers

Luncheon host and Special Award Winner Bill Buerge with Pat Mac Neil.

The ceremony also included special “Hot Stuff” Awards given to Ben Saltsman from Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky office and Mike Sanderman, a retired Battalion Chief of the Los Angeles County Fire Department. A special award was given to Bill Buerge for his work on the “Topanga Disaster Survival Guide.”

Additional Volunteer Awards were received by Andrea Makshanoff, Rebecca Goldfarb, Lee Michelson, James Grasso, Janice Harman, Harvey Moss, Louise Thomas, Bob Loftus, Dawn Simmons, Mathew Clark, Jayni Shuman, Judy Gory, Walter Gory and LeQuita Gelotte Clark.

T-CEP operates our local emergency operations center that is prepared to communicate with the various governmental departments in the event of a natural disaster or local emergency.

The EOC has a busy hotline at (310) 455-3000 and website at www.t-cep.org where updates can be found.