Alan Emerson

For more than 20 years, Alan Emerson has been helping to protect the Malibu community from one of its biggest dangers, fire. Emerson is the coordinator of Community Arson Watch, and he is on the job nearly every day, from when he wakes up until he goes to sleep.

“What else am I going to do,” he says jokingly. “People tell me to get a life. This is my life.”

Actor Buddy Epson came up with the idea for Arson Watch following a deliberately set fire in 1982 that destroyed some of his property. At the time, Emerson was on the board of directors of the Topanga Town Council. When the president of the council asked for volunteers for the new group, Emerson was the only one to raise his hand.

“And now I’m stuck with it,” he says. “Well I shouldn’t say that actually. I enjoy it. It’s very important.”

Arson Watch is divided into six teams of volunteers who patrol different parts of the local area. They look for signs of fire or any other suspicious activity. When they are found, it is reported to someone serving at a base, who then forwards the warning to the proper authorities. Emerson is the coordinator of all six teams and is also the leader of the Topanga team. In addition, he does some of the patrolling, and serves as the person at the base. Emerson does just about everything there is to do for Arson Watch.


But Emerson is not arrogant about his service. He has many good things to say about all of the volunteers, especially the 52 people on the Malibu team. Emerson said he is proud of their help during the recent fire in January. Among other things, one volunteer drove the mayor around to show him what was occurring, and another volunteer brought food to crews working at the roadblocks.

Emerson has been a resident of Topanga since 1976, except for five years during the mid-’90s when he lived in Monte Nido. But he says he has always considered Malibu to be a second home, since he spends a great deal of time there. Emerson has one older son, Geoffrey, who works as a Web site designer in Australia. Even during his free time Emerson is involved with Arson Watch, as he is the president of Friends of the Arson Watch and Disaster Services, the fundraising organization that generates most of the money for Arson Watch.

-Jonathan Friedman

Ann Ferguson

Ann Ferguson has been in the business of inspiring and molding children into leaders for 50 years. As a dedicated teacher at Webster Elementary in Malibu, she has impacted the lives of more than 1,500 students by not only recognizing, but also helping them realize their strengths and potential. After graduating from USC with a degree in sociology and education, Ferguson went to the Santa Monica School District and began teaching at Garfield Elementary. When a friend who taught at Webster told Ferguson of an opening two years later, she jumped at the opportunity and never looked back.

“I fell in love with the students and location immediately,” Ferguson said. “I loved the kids, parents, the view of the coast on the way to work, everything about Webster.”

Ferguson represented Webster on the District Mathematics Committee and Standards and Assessments Committee. However, her dedication to students did not end there. Ferguson consistently reached beyond herself to make each student feel important and special. Webster Principal Phil Cott recalls entering Ferguson’s fourth-grade class one year before students returned from summer break and finding individual notes on each desk written by her expressing her excitement for having each of them in her class.

“It’s that type of dedication that made parents want her to postpone retirement until after their younger children had her as a teacher,” Cott said. “She is one of those teachers that kids will remember their entire lives. She will be impossible to replace.”

-Massiel Ladron De Guevera

Sherman Baylin

Up for two days without sleep, Malibu native Sherman Baylin of Sherman’s Place in Zuma Plaza eagerly donated her time, energy and expertise to orchestrate animal rescues and evacuations during the recent fires in Malibu. Operating as a dog groomer by day, Baylin has worked behind the scenes to rescue local pets and wildlife for more than a decade. It is her dedication to animals that earned her the respect and trust of the local Sheriff’s Station and fire personnel, which was needed to allow her to cross fire lines during the recent blazes and coordinate animal rescues.

“I didn’t hear a word about the animals during the recent fires, except for seeing a clip of a goat on PCH, but Sherman was right there,” longtime friend Lori Gray said. “She is responsible going in and saving horses, dogs, cats, you name it.”

No stranger to animal emergencies, Baylin has dedicated herself to the care of animals during disasters and accidents alike. It is her compassion that has made her a hero among her peers.

“I do it because I love to and nobody else will do it,” Baylin said. “I’m not concerned about getting a massage or manicure, I’m concerned about animals.”

Never waiting to be summoned to the scene of an animal accident or natural disaster where animals are involved, Baylin has become one of the leading people in Malibu for animal care.

“When it comes to four-legged creatures in Malibu, she is the first person we turn to with questions or for help with a problem,” Gray said. “She truly is a phenomenal person who has a strong presence in our community. It doesn’t matter what it is, if you’ve lost an animal, want an animal or have found an animal, Baylin is the one to go to.”

-Massiel Ladron De Guevera

Ozzie Silna

“I drove here many years ago and I said, what a wonderful place to live one day.”

And so he did.

Ozzie Silna, who originally hails from New Jersey, moved to Malibu in 1993 with his wife, Wendy, and three children.

What drew Silna to Malibu-its beautiful rural, largely undeveloped coastline-is what gave him impetus to get involved with city politics and nonprofit groups such as the Malibu Coastal Land Conservancy, of which he is treasurer.

“I became involved several years ago when I found there was going to be significant development here to a level that I found horrible,” Silna says.

“If they do that, they will destroy why I moved here.”

Silna, who owns Action Embroidery Corp.-which produces embroidered emblems (one of its biggest clients is the U.S. military) and was founded in 1943 by his father Harry-and who once was a co-owner of the now defunct American Basketball Association’s Spirits of St. Louis team, educated himself by reading the entire General Plan of the City of Malibu, a 10-part, 424-page document that outlines the future of Malibu.

“What I read, I liked,” Silna says. “Then when I saw things that were evolving were contrary to the General Plan, I decided to take an active role in opposing them.”

Silna has done this by joining the MCLC, through monetary contributions and by involving himself in all the major discussions of development.

Not only is Silna concerned about preserving open space in Malibu, he also is involved in having recreation for children here. He heavily backed the Malibu Parks and Land Bond, donating several thousand dollars (and raising more) to support the measure so the city could buy land for ball fields. He even offered to give the city in excess of $1 million to acquire land for the fields.

In a letter to the editor dated April 17, 2002, Anne Hoffman wrote, “Mr. Silna is one of Malibu’s greatest philanthropists and people who actually fund projects that are our town’s lifeblood.”

Silna credits his wife, Wendy, for contributions to the Ballet Society, and Malibu High and Webster’s PTAs. Joanna Jarvis, owner of Ballet Studio by the Sea, says Silna helped the studio find a new home when it was evicted from its former one, helping to deal with Realtors and the lease.

“He really tries to keep everything that’s good in the community here,” Jarvis says.

Of his continuing activism and contributions to society that extend beyond Malibu, Silna says, “I teach my children the most important thing is the Golden Rule. Hopefully they will learn to live that way. I have been comfortable living that way.”

-Laura Tate

Adamson House and Malibu Lagoon docents and volunteers

The Historic Adamson House and Malibu Lagoon Museum is where residents and tourists can learn about the rich cultural history of Malibu. And the docents and volunteers there are the ones who make sure that experience is as valuable as it can be.

“In 2002 we had over 20,000 visitors and nearly 100 active docents and gift shop volunteers gave over 11,400 hours of their time and knowledge,” says Sandy Mitchell, a docent since 1993 and president of the board of directors. “If one was to pay a modest wage of $10 per hour, that gift equals a gift of over $114,000 worth of labor to the citizens of Malibu and California.”

To become a docent, the perspectives must take seven, two-hour lecture courses to learn all of the expert knowledge. They then conclude their preparation by conducting a graduation tour, and are then ready to be guides for the visitors. There are also volunteers at the museum gift shop, which generates most of the museum’s fundraising money.

Stiles O. Clements created the Adamson House in 1929 for Rhoda Rindge Adamson and her husband, Merritt Hutley Adamson. The house is a local treasure with its Malibu tile, hand-carved teakwood doors and hand-painted murals. The docents guide visitors through the house and all of its incredible features. A tour through the museum is a glimpse into the history of the area from the early days of the Chumash Indians to the time of Spanish California to the present day Malibu.

The area, which is located on the coast, is also a popular attraction for wedding ceremonies with its many trees, bushes and a variety of flowers. The docents help with these wedding ceremonies that take place almost every week from April through October.

The people who serve as docents and volunteers at the museum and house come from all over Southern California. Mitchell says it is amazing how far people will drive to come there. But one would assume their reason for coming from far away is because they are in agreement with her adoration for the place. With a large smile, Mitchell gladly says, “This really is the crown jewel of the California State Parks system.”

-Jonathan Friedman

David Legaspi III

Donating his time, talent and money to paint a bright future for children across the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District, David Legaspi has been painting murals in local schools for eight years. An immigrant from the Philippines and architect by profession, Legaspi was recruited by the United States Air Force to serve as a civilian architect in 1985. Away from his family, which had since moved to Australia, Legaspi found inspiration to paint when visiting his 10 nieces and nephews in Australia.

“I began painting with my nieces and nephews and decided to do art with school children on my return since I was away from my family,” Legaspi said. “In no time I had a connection with the kids.”

The first mural Legaspi painted was in the United Methodist Malibu Nursery School, where he allowed the children to participate in the painting, and he has been hooked ever since. For Legaspi, the most rewarding aspect of painting with children is the awareness his art generates toward the importance of the arts in schools. Each mural painted is themed by education.

“I think what he is doing not only beautifies our public schools, but shows children we are willing to invest in them,” Webster Elementary parent Deirdre Roney said. “The fact that he creates the murals with the children teaches them to find the artist within themselves. The children are all proud and elated to see what they’ve been able to do.”

The time and dedication required for Legaspi to continue painting began to take its toll in 2001. Legaspi found himself painting every weekend, during holidays and his annual leave. Within a matter of a few years he was deeply committed to every child in every school in the district.

“I realized that my paying job was getting in the way of painting with children,” Legaspi said. “So I quite my paying job in November of 2001 and dedicated myself to what I love.”

Intent on creating awareness to the need for the arts in schools, Legaspi continues his volunteer painting within the school district. One parent quotes Legaspi as saying money has no value until you give it away to help someone else. A motto Legaspi has lived by in his painting career.

-Massiel Ladron De Guevara

Marlene Matlow

Marlene Matlow has been a Malibu resident for more than 28 years. When she first moved to Malibu, she served on the board of directors of the Point Dume Homeowners Association, perhaps this being the springboard of many generous years of community service. She has been an active member of the California Highway Patrol (CHP) safety meeting, helping to keep Malibu’s Urgent Care Center open and now serving for the past two years as Malibu’s commissioner of Public Safety.

Matlow participated in the transformation of the then-closed Point Dume Elementary School in 1982 into the Malibu Community Center. She has been instrumental in trying to make Pacific Coast Highway and Point Dume safe as a member of the Malibu Transportation Study Group, and a member of Malibu Public Safety Study Group. Matlow’s proudest accomplishment to date is “Friends of Malibu Urgent Care Center.”

In 2001, when it looked as though the Urgent Care Center was going to close due to lack of funds, Matlow, along with some friends, established “Friends of Malibu Urgent Care,” a nonprofit organization in order to keep the center from closing. They provided funding to keep the center open for extra hours and on the weekends, and to be able to buy state-of-the art equipment.

“Our goal is to do as much as we possibly can. In the future, we hope to have a small 24-hour facility with a couple of beds.”

When asked what her next endeavor will be, she answered, “When there is a hole that needs to be filled, I will fill it.”

-Cathy Neiman

David Katz

At first glance, one might think David Katz is the typical “Malibu boy.” Katz, an avid surfer, was born and raised here. The son of film producer Marty Katz and grandson of the actor, Israel Katz, one might think Katz was born into an easy life. This is far from the truth. President of the Malibu Film Foundation and creator of Malibu’s first film festival, Katz has done it all off the sweat of his own brow.

Directing commercials for many years, and being a filmmaker himself, Katz has had a vision for Malibu for some time.

“I have always thought that Malibu is the perfect place for a film festival,” Katz said.

In 1997, Katz attended a Malibu City Council meeting and announced that Malibu should have a film festival, and that he should be the one to put it on. After sending out more than 1,000 sponsorship proposals and receiving 200 “Thanks but no thanks” letters, he continued to work. Through his hard work and tireless persistence, Katz managed to pull it off. The Annual Malibu Film Festival has been in existence since 1997, and the 1st Annual Malibu Film Festival took place in February of 1999. Unfortunately, due to Malibu’s unpredictable weather, the festival was not all that Katz had hoped for. He decided to hold off the next festival for one year to make sure he received enough funds and sponsorship, and to do it right. The 2001 2nd Annual Malibu Film Festival was about promoting the festival itself. The City of Malibu was finally behind him and the film festival screenings took place at The New Malibu Theater. What really made Katz ecstatic was the outcome of the third film festival in 2002. More than 500 films from all over the world were sent to him. The 2002 festival packed audiences at The New Malibu Theater for one week. While Katz prepared for the last festival, he also offered free filmmaking workshops to the community to help new filmmakers not only make a film, but to promote it as well. Katz has also helped local organizations such as Cornucopia Farms by making commercials for the local public access channels.

“I am hoping each year the festival will getter better. I see it becoming an international event for many years to come.”

-Cathy Neiman

The Malibu Times is the first newspaper in Malibu, serving the community since 1946.

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