Recognizing Role Models
The Conejo Valley offers a wonderful lifestyle for families and businesses to grow and prosper. While its natural beauty and mild temperatures make it an idyllic place to live, it’s the caring for one another that unites the community and creates a haven we proudly call home.
Countless people contribute to the betterment of our communities. We feature just a handful of them, representing the best of us, and say “Thank you.”
Dr. Benjamin Griffes
Owner, Griffes Chiropractic
Benjamin Griffes is a doctor of chiropractic and a health coach with offices in Tarzana and Thousand Oaks. He focuses on helping others maintain pain-free and healthy lifestyles, while also finding time to give back.
An active member of numerous organizations, Ben is involved with many fundraisers for nonprofits, such as the YMCA. With Progression Athletics International, he provides sports clinics for underprivileged children, and with Ride Blind America, he escorts sight-impaired athletes on tandem bike rides. He is also a member of the Azusa Pacific University Mexico Outreach Team that annually brings medical aid to Mexicali residents.
Ben also finds time for mountain biking, playing a mean harmonica and brewing up some tasty beers of his own design. This year, he’s introducing his first batch of honey wine (mead).
Ben says his most important lessons are “Always be curious and ask questions. Don’t be afraid to take risks and say ‘yes’ to those who need a helping hand.” And, he notes, “Thomas Jefferson got it right when he said, ‘Nothing is troublesome that we do willingly.’”
REALTOR®, Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage
Joe Joyce loves his community and spends a great deal of time helping to improve it. His efforts were recently recognized when he was named 2016 Volunteer of the Year by the Greater Conejo Valley Chamber of Commerce, where he serves as an Ambassador to local businesses.
Since joining Coldwell Banker in 1998, Joe has spent much of his spare time lending a hand through the Rotary Club of Newbury Park. He is a three-time Rotarian of the Year, past President, and Director of Youth Service, which involved 45 local projects to better the surrounding areas. Joe has been honored for his service to youth in our community and previously served as a board member of the Miller Family YMCA, where he was campaign chairman of the Strong Kids program.
He quotes Gandhi as his inspiration to “Be the change you want to see in the world.” Says Joe, “Great things can be done, if you are willing to take on the challenge, find your passion and get involved.”
Joe also likes watching movies, cooking and wine tasting. He enjoys watching football and basketball and has coached youth and high school soccer and softball. He recently started working out at Title Boxing in Newbury Park to improve his health and get in better shape because he has a lot more to do.
Chairman, The Johnston Group
Cal Johnston is a very successful business man and visionary. In 1959, he founded The Johnston Group, which launched his amazing career, however, his greatest accomplishment was founding the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Conejo Valley.
Twelve years ago, Cal saw a need for local programs that would give school-aged children a safe place to go before and after classes. In particular, for the “latch key” kids of single parents and others, he felt some kind of retreat was necessary to provide them with structure, direction, tutoring and ways to expend their energies in positive, productive ways.
Cal, who was orphaned at age 4, learned early on the meaning of responsibility and hard work. His advice: “Be tenacious, find ways to achieve, and don’t quit.” With the Boys & Girls Club, he challenged himself and those around him to build a better tomorrow for the youth of our communities.
Under his leadership, this local organization has opened six Clubs on middle school campuses in the Conejo Valley and two at elementary schools in Calabasas. Some 100 employees provide activities and learning experiences for over 5,000 area kids. Cal also recently joined the Board of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Metro Los Angeles. Their goal is to bring together under one umbrella a number of the Clubs that serve some 10,000 children in the inner-city areas.
Cal’s vision is to see 20,000 kids involved by the year 2020. His apropos favorite quote is “Teaching kids to count is fine, but teaching them what counts is best.”
Teen Services Coordinator, Alex Fiore Thousand Oaks Teen Center
Jay Dodwell grew up in the Thousand Oaks area. When he was in high school in the early 1980s, there was little for teenagers to do. Kids would hang out at the mall or bowling alley when not in school, which became a concern for parents, city officials and some kids themselves.
In 1989, the Alex Fiore Thousand Oaks Teen Center opened, offering thousands of teens a place to congregate and enjoy recreational and educational opportunities. Jay enjoys mentoring the teens and giving them a safe place to interact positively with others.
The greatest life lesson for Jay is “be patient in finding your path.” We never know what opportunities may present themselves, and we must be ready for them, he says.
Jay didn’t have to think twice when asked about the most important accomplishment in his life. “It’s being happily married for the past 21 years and raising our two boys, John Anthony and Jayden.”
According to family tradition, Jay and his sons have first names starting with “J,” as do all of Jay’s four siblings.
An avid golfer who shoots in the low 80s and is rightfully proud of his course scoring, Jay says being a long-time mentor to the teens in our area is the card he appreciates most of all.
Dr. Robert Bland
Chief Executive Officer, Conejo Compassion Coalition
When there was a need for a homeless shelter or food bank in the Conejo Valley, Bob Bland was there. When a devastating earthquake and tsunami struck Southeast Asia in 2004, Bob was there. When a hurricane hit Haiti, Bob was there, and when Uganda called for help, Bob was there.
Bob has spent much of his life giving to those less fortunate than him and supporting efforts locally and around the world to improve the human condition. In February, Bob received a Lifetime Service Award signed by President Obama that reminded us that “Every American has a duty to ourselves, our nation and the world.”
The City of Thousand Oaks recently presented Bob with a commendation recognizing his many accomplishments in making every effort “to heal a broken world – one child, one family, one village at a time . . . ”
Bob’s most important influences in his life have actually come from those he has helped worldwide. “Their honesty and candid feedback have been an invaluable reality check” that guides his efforts today, he explains.
Bob’s most important lesson also motivates him and defines his legacy. “In this life, our calling is not to be successful, but rather to be faithful to the vision of the world as it can be, not as it is.”