Giver gets Gibbs award for community service

Calabasas resident Howard Schwartz believes in civic responsibility. For the 25 years he’s lived in the community, he has served as a volunteer with the Boy Scouts, the Pumpkin Festival and the Arbor Day celebration, among others.

Schwartz, 49, was recently honored with the Carl Gibbs Environmental Excellence Award. Calabasas’ Environmental Commission selected Schwartz to receive the honor for his volunteer work and his commitment to the environment.

“Last year I really took an active role in the Calabasas Arbor Day (celebration),” Schwartz said. “I really brought my attention and enthusiasm and brought a lot of people to last year’s Arbor Day planting. After the fires that took place in Calabasas, replanting trees and helping to restore vegetation was big for me, so it tied in great with Arbor Day. I think that was probably a catalyst moment, but I think that they were also recognizing the long service to my community.”

Schwartz said he enjoys volunteering because he loves connecting with people and nature. He usually spends about 12 hours a week volunteering with various activities and organizations but said he can get much busiero— there have been times he’s put in 40 hours a week helping with a Boy Scout camp out in addition to his regular volunteering.

“I believe it’s a responsibility to do service in communities, in homes, wherever somebody can (do it),” Schwartz said. “The strength of a community comes from its citizens helping it grow and thrive. Volunteering and doing service unto others, it’s not religious, but it’s like a tenet, a responsibility for people to help. I really love that calling, and I hope I inspire more people to step up and serve.”

Schwartz and his wife, Whitney, own an eco-friendly jewelry accessory line and operate out of a studio in Canoga Park. They’ve been married for 19 years.

He started volunteering in the community when he was 26 and took the opportunity to get as involved with the then-fledgling city as he could.

“I started the arts and crafts festival, and an acting school and theater. I was a deputy member of the Calabasas Chamber of Commerce,” Schwartz said. “I was one of the chairs on the Pumpkin Festival. Every single Saturday for over two years I would tell stories to kids at the farmers market. A local library would give me books, I’d sit kids under an oak tree and tell them stories while their parents shopped.”

Volunteering is a family activity. Whitney Schwartz oversaw the creation of the Chaparral Elementary School Green Team, which promotes attention to the environment and campus cleanups. Las Virgenes Unified School District offers the Whitney Schwartz Award for Environmental Excellence to students who work to help the environment. The couple’s son Elijah, 18, is a student member of Calabasas’ Environmental Commission.

The Carl Gibbs Award was named for Carl Gibbs, one of the founders of Calabasas and the city’s environmental commission. Gibbs helped create the city’s oak tree ordinance and the guidelines for protecting the scenic corridors.

Howard Schwartz said he once met Gibbs, who died in 2006.

“I found it interesting how much we had in common—our love for the outdoors, protecting the resources in our community,” Schwartz said. “To be part of his path and to be recognized in his name is something I’m very happy to have happen.”