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Local chosen for mentorship honor

Vance Trueblood will be feted for his role in Catholic Big Brothers.

May 25, 2011|By Joe Piasecki, joe.piasecki@latimes.com
  • Mike Trueblood and his little brother. (Photo Courtesy of Francis Hill)
Mike Trueblood and his little brother. (Photo Courtesy…

With its high hopes and unrivaled support for local public education, La Cañada Flintridge is known as a community that cares deeply about its children.

Over the years, a number of La Cañadans who support L.A.’s Catholic Big Brothers Big Sisters mentorship program have quietly extended that concern to kids who haven’t had all the breaks.

Such willingness to make a positive impact on young lives is perhaps no better illustrated than by Vance “Mike” Trueblood, who was recently named National Big Brother of the Year from among approximately 170,000 volunteers for nearly 400 Big Brothers groups.

Trueblood, 81, is in his fourth year as a mentor and role model for 13-year-old Joseph, who came to the organization’s attention as a child who has faced the challenge of having a parent in prison.

The pair gets together every other Saturday for one thing or another — tennis lessons, museum visits, fishing trips, catching a matinee, reading and studying together, or just tossing a ball and talking about the future — all the while building the kind of relationship typically found among family.

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“We’ve been finding our way into things he enjoys doing and expanding on them. In many ways I probably do treat him like a grandchild. It comes naturally,” said Trueblood, who in fact has 12 grandkids, ages 10 to 23, by four adult children.

Trueblood, whose achievement was recognized last week during a La Cañada Flintridge City Council meeting, will travel to Texas in June to receive the national honor alongside Joseph.

Before becoming a Big Brother, Trueblood joined the group’s board of directors in the mid-1980s and later served time as its president.

Then employed as an advertising agency manager, the now 46-year La Cañada resident found himself recruited to help publicize the group by fellow La Cañadan Mike Smith one Sunday after church at St. Bede’s.

Mike Smith, owner-operator of the Bob Smith Toyota dealership that bears his father’s name, and other members of the Smith family have remained among the organization’s top donors for decades, said Catholic Big Brothers Big Sisters President Ken Martinet, who lives a stone’s throw from La Cañada in the Chevy Chase Canyon area of Glendale.

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