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Proud Greeks > from Greek at the Harbor to Citizen of the Year January 19, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Greek Diaspora.
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Lynn Mikelatos might be one of Ventura County’s hardest-working citizens.

She helped lead the drive to get a pool built at Oxnard High School, co-founded the Ventura Harbor Community Council and supports numerous nonprofit efforts such as FOOD Share and Camarillo’s Greek Festival, while still helping to run her Greek restaurant. Mikelatos sees it as her duty to volunteer in the community.

“I think our purpose in life is to give back to others,” said Mikelatos, who owns The Greek at the Harbor restaurant in Ventura with her husband, Makis Mikelatos, and Jerome Dabour.

In recognition of her service, the Ventura Chamber of Commerce recently gave Mikelatos its Poinsettia Award for Citizen of the Year. The annual awards honor businesses and individuals for community service.

This is the third time Mikelatos has won one of the awards. She won for Small Business of the Year in 2001 and Volunteer of the Year in 2004.

Before moving here, Mikelatos was a teacher in Bonham, Texas, about 70 miles northeast of Dallas. Her sister lived in California, and Mikelatos loved the state so much that she moved to Oxnard in the mid-1970s.

“I like the idea that you can go from the snow to the ocean in just a matter of minutes,” Mikelatos said.

She originally came here to teach but realized she would have to return to school for new teaching credentials. Instead, she sold real estate until 1980, when she opened the restaurant It’s Greek to Me at the Centerpoint Mall in Oxnard with her husband.

The business eventually grew, partly because of its charitable donations and connections, according to Mikelatos. “I feel like I built our business on the charity circuit,” she said. In 1994, the restaurant moved to the Ventura Harbor.

Race to stop hunger > Mikelatos has organized 5K and 10K runs for the annual Greek Festival in Camarillo. Proceeds benefit FOOD Share, Ventura County’s regional food bank. “Last year, we gave them $4,000,” she said.

She helped form the Oxnard Aquatic Foundation to promote and raise money for an Olympic-size swimming pool project at Oxnard High School. The drive was a success, and the pool opened in 1999. She also helped organize the Ventura Harbor Community Council almost six years ago. The council was formed after city officials began exploring the idea of taking over the independently run harbor. “The harbor community wanted to keep the harbor in the hands of the port commissioners,” Mikelatos said.

Today, the council serves as a representative for the harbor community, making recommendations to the city on issues affecting the area. Mikelatos is still a member of the council, which is currently updating the harbor’s disaster-preparedness plan and developing a new recycling program. Part of the program calls for giving cans and bottles to the River Haven homeless camp near the harbor, so the residents can exchange them for money.

Help for homeless > Mikelatos has been working with the Turning Point Foundation, which sponsors the tent community, said Clyde Reynolds, the foundation’s executive director. “She has been very supportive of our River Haven program,” said Reynolds, who described Mikelatos as an incredible community volunteer. “I think she is a very concerned citizen who is doing her part to make a difference,” Reynolds said.

Mikelatos also is chairwoman of the nonprofit Ventura Commerce and Education Foundation. The group raises money for education and offers programs such as Leadership Ventura, which teaches local business and community leaders about city government, education and commerce.

Mikelatos also wants to work with police and school officials to study the problem of underage drinking and educate parents about it. “I think a lot of parents are unaware their kids are drinking under their noses,” she said.

Ventura Councilman Neal Andrews praised Mikelatos’ community service and activism. “She is the person you want everybody to be,” he said.

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