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La Mirada Resident Wins Presidential Service Award


By Tammye McDuff

Raquel Lizarraga, a La Mirada resident for 27 years, recently was awarded the Presidential Volunteer Service Award [PVSA] for her work on bringing attention to drowning victims.

Alongside Huntington Beach residents, Olin Patterson and William Koon, and Pico Rivera residents, Mike Lopez and Henry Reyes, all were awarded for their volunteer work with the non-profit International Surf Lifesaving Association [ISLA].

The President’s Volunteer Service Award program is a way to thank and honor Americans who, by their demonstrated commitment and example, inspire others to engage in volunteer service.  The PVSA recognizes United States citizens who have achieved the required number of hours of service over a 12-month time period.  The President’s Council on Service and Civic Participation (the Council) was established in 2003 to recognize the valuable contributions volunteers are making in local communities and encourage more people to serve. The Council created the President’s Volunteer Service Award program as a way to thank and honor Americans who, by their demonstrated commitment and example, inspire others to engage in volunteer service.

Reyes and ISLA’s Vice President of Operations, Koon, received Gold awards for accumulating over 500 hours of service. Patterson, Director/Co-founder of ISLA, along with Lizarraga, ISLA’S Vice President for Development, both were awarded Silver for their 400 hours of service, and ISLA’s IT Manager, Lopez received Bronze for his 200 hours. “This is our opportunity to educate and bring to light the issue of global drowning” said Lizarraga.

Upon receiving the award Lizarraga said, “It’s an honor to be recognized by the Obama Administration for our efforts to prevent drowning. Drowning is a leading cause of death worldwide with two people drowning every minute.”  Lizarraga recalled her first trip to Nicaragua, “It was just a few of us, but we had big dreams. Now, we are seeing our dreams become a reality.” Lizarraga noted that with over 200 volunteers going on multiple trips on every continent, it is time that drowning becomes a global issue.

Since its inception in 2008, ISLA has expanded to volunteering in over 15 countries. The organization has provided 1,628 preventative actions, including 220 rescues, 188 medical aids, and 14 international lifeguard trainings and workshops. With ongoing operations in the U.S., Mexico, Nicaragua, Dominican Republic, and Macedonia, ISLA has set the goal of leading one trip per month in 2015 to a different country in its continuous efforts to decrease drowning’s around the globe and increase lifesaving skills and awareness.

Comprised entirely of volunteers; the organization serves to provide training, medical supplies, disaster relief, and emergency personnel to communities in need around the world.