It was a festive, upbeat night on December 8 when residents were honored for their important and impactful volunteer activities in the town. The ceremony, which included recognizing the Citizen of the Year, Golden Sparkplugs and Pride of the Palisades was held in Cheadle Hall in Temescal Canyon Gateway Park.
This year four people received the Sparkplug award: James Cragg, Cindy Simon, Tracey Price and Hazel Tate. They were honored for actions that included public safety, beautification and feeding the hungry.
JAMES CRAGG: Public Safety
James Cragg, who is the head of American Legion Post 283, led a six-month public-safety project that ensured every household in Pacific Palisades received a postcard about who and how to contact if there was a public safety issue.
He brought together the community and police in meetings so that both sides could better understand issues.
Cragg held a public meeting about the dangers of fentanyl, which was informative and well-attended.
“Thank you for this amazing award,” Cragg said.
“I look at communication,” he said about his efforts. “In 2006 I was working in security in Kabul, Afghanistan.
“I came to the Palisades and saw the same issues: a deficiency in communication,” he said, and promptly tried to address it.
A 1988 grad of El Camino Real High School in Woodland Hills, Cragg served his entire career in an Army Special Operations including deployment to Afghanistan. He returned home in 1997 and opened a sewing company called S.O. Tech — Special Operations Technologies — to make protective military gear.
He joined the American Legion Ronald Reagan Post 283 in 2014 and became commander in 2020. In November 2021, he was honored as the Veteran of the Year during the UCLA Football Military Appreciation Game at the Rose Bowl.
During his leadership, the Post at the corner of Swarthmore and LaCruz, underwent a nine-month $2 million renovation and has recently reopened.
A resident of Pacific Palisades, Cragg and Dr. Susan Marusak have a daughter, Charley.
TRACEY PRICE and CINDY SIMON: Beautification
Cindy Simon and Tracey Price created Winding Way in Simon Meadow and installed a new “Pali Path” quarter mile trail in the meadow. Curving along the hillside, it provides a beautiful and meditative area to stroll and contemplate.
During the awards ceremony, the two gave an entertaining dialogue of how the site developed. It started with a call from Simon to Price in 2017. “Can you meet me in Simon Meadow . . .I was thinking about this one area on the bottom of the hillside—it’s kind of dark and creepy . . .”
When Price answered, “Sure I guess,” little did she know that would be the start of a five-year collaborative effort between the two women.
The two used “rejected” construction material and planting items to build a unique area on Palisades-Malibu YMCA land, off Temescal Canyon Road and Sunset.
In 2019, they reused wooden pallets, on which sod had been delivered, to make an entry arch for Winding Way.
They found a long wood “thing” by a Swarthmore construction site, and Tracey suggested “Let’s use it as bridge over the Shady Glen at the end of the path . . .with a dry rock riverbed and native grasses surrounding, it will be the perfect way to finish the area.”
They reused terracotta pots someone had thrown away. The wood from an 80-foot pine tree, cut down by a neighbor, was used to make a retaining wall, stage and chairs.
Their most recent collaboration came because Cindy’s husband Bill [Simon] called the overgrown hillside, adjacent to Winding Way, “an eyesore.”
Tracey suggested “Let’s create a path and terrace the hillside to include a walking path, with native plantings to anchor each level. We can add stairs at each end to frame the oaks.”
The path, which is above the Palisades-Malibu YMCA Christmas Tree lot, will be officially opened this Saturday at 10:30 a.m.
“The inspiration and collaboration never ends,” Simon told the audience.
Tracey said, “I remember one time you said I was just crazy enough to be a great partner in our artistic endeavors. I take that as a compliment . . .at least for tonight.”
Simon, a long-time resident, who founded Dollies Making a Difference, is a Fourth of July parade announcer and a recently elected member of the Community Council. She is a “cardboard” artist, specializing in using found items, such as plastic bottle caps, string, newspaper bags and cardboard and upcycling them. She and her husband have four adult children.
Tracey who graduated from Palisades High School, initially earned a degree in fashion design. After working for 10 years in the apparel business, she joined her husband David (also a PaliHi grad) and founded American Growers Company, which is based in town. Tracey Price Garden Design specializes in container gardens, window boxes, hanging baskets and orchids for homes and business. The couple have three children.
HAZEL TATE: Feeding the Hungry
When Covid hit, Hazel Tate learned there were many who had depended on food programs, but those programs had been shut down.
Through the Hang Out Do Good website, Tate started making sack lunches for those in need that were distributed by the Hollywood Food Coalition.
In March of 2020, she gathered four local families, who each put together 10 sacks of food.
And then, Tate reached out to friends in the El Medio Bluffs neighborhood and explained how they could pack a sandwich, fruit, chopped vegetables, chips, nuts, a muesli bar, a sweet treat and water. If people wanted to include a mask, hand sanitizer, gloves or tissues, that would also be appreciated.
She also sent a friendly text to neighbors and residents to remind them of the weekly effort and to deliver the food to her driveway. Tate encouraged children and residents to include a note in the bag.
““This is an activity that the whole family can participate in,” Tate told CTN in a 2021 story, noting that the Hollywood Food Coalition has been operating since the 1980s and now serves thousands of folks weekly. “It’s a great project to share with your kids, too.”
At the ceremony, Tate said, “We’ve done this through rain and shine. My husband [Nick Tate is a well-known Australian and English actor] makes sandwiches every week.”
“This is a beautiful place to live,” said Tate, who acknowledged all the people who had participated in the food drive. “This is a community with a heart.”
The couple raised their two children here and Tate was one of the people instrumental in restoring the greenhouse at Paul Revere Middle School.