One-On-One with Sol Ajalat Part ONE ~ Community Service

T38-02When he’s not busy working in his Ajalat & Ajalat, LLP offices in the Academy Building, attorney Sol P. Ajalat contributes much of his time to community service. He began volunteering at a young age and has carried on this vital tradition of helping his neighborhood throughout his adult life, including the past 50 years as a resident of Toluca Lake. The Toluca Lake Chamber of Commerce has recognized his work with several awards including the Good Neighbor Award, Community Service Award, and the Distinguished Service Award twice. Serving as an Instructor for Emergency Medical Care in the U.S. Army aided him in becoming Trustee for the Medical Center of North Hollywood, Director of Hollywood Community Hospital as well as Director of Life Services, Inc. (an elderly care non-profit corporation). Even after five decades Ajalat is still active in many functions and activities that make Toluca Lake what it is today!

Why is it important for you to get involved?

Community work involves people coming together, working unselfishly, to achieve a good community. Here is a result of that: I went to a funeral recently here in Toluca Lake and there was a large turn out from the neighborhood council, chamber, homeowners association. Why were they there? Because of the comradery that has developed from community service. There is something that overcomes a person that allows them to get involved. One becomes a changed person when working to serve their community as well as their church and other groups. As a result, everyone involved becomes a better person.

How long have you been involved with community service?

In high school I belonged to organizations that performed special functions for disadvantaged people and did other things like Christmas caroling. Then I helped build youth organizations while working at the [Hollywood] YMCA.

You have been involved in numerous organizations since then.

There is a certain dynamic to the success of a community organization. You want new blood to come in. When they asked me to re-run for the Board of the Neighborhood Council and for the Chamber, I said no. You don’t want the old guard there; you want the fresh guard to come in. Historically when the old guard stays, they start doing all the work and the control becomes centralized. And when you do that, two things happen: First, eventually the individuals doing all the work tire out because nobody else is doing any work, they become discouraged and stop working. Secondly, those not doing the work say, “What the heck do you need me for? You’re doing all the work!” I believe the accomplishment of the goal in community service is only 25% of the success and the other 75% is getting everybody together to accomplish the goal. It may be a slower process, but it allows for the growth of the organization and a better accomplishment of what it is you are trying to do.

What was the first community service act you were involved in here in Toluca Lake?

When my children attended Toluca Lake Elementary I became one of the founders and the President of the Advisory Council of Toluca Lake Elementary. We performed services to assist the faculty with their teaching obligations and provide funds.

Of your many accomplishments in Toluca Lake which one stands out to you?

When I first moved my offices to this area there were two Chambers; the Chamber and the Commerce Association, along with the Homeowners Association. They were at odds and wouldn’t even talk to each other due in part to the centralizing of the control. It was destructive to the community. When I became President of the Chamber we were able to reverse all that. As a matter of fact, Mardi [Rustam, Editor-in-Chief of The Tolucan Times] was also involved in helping to get everybody to work together. We began building a beautiful organization that still exists today. We merged the two Chambers back together and from then on the Chamber of Commerce has been a really successful organization! Before that process even started, the President of the Homeowners Association asked me to take steps in regard to the formation of a neighborhood council, which were just coming on the scene at that time. I lead the formation of and became the first President of ours.

You used to be the director for both the Burbank and North Hollywood Angel of the Year awards for years.

That organization no longer exists, but it was founded and sponsored by Mike Stern, an owner of Dana Drugs pharmacy, because he thought that volunteers ought to be adequately recognized for the services they were doing for the community. He wanted an entity which I legally formed to do that; it was very successful at the time. It provided awards and recognition to volunteers particularly those helping the disadvantaged and disabled.

You also served as President of your Kiwanis Club.

It was a wonderful club. I was elected because there was nobody else that would take it! (Laughs)

What did you do as a Court Referee?

In the earlier days of the legal profession attorneys did a lot of volunteer work. One of them was to sit as a referee on the State Bar Disciplinary Court and I did that. My function was attempting to resolve attorney/client disputes and attorney misconduct as well as substance abuse. The position was stronger than a mediator because I had the ability to send it to trial. The process usually started by the filing of a complaint from a client. Some very well-known attorneys came before me who had abused client trust accounts, other money matters or they may have had addiction problems that needed to be addressed. The purpose was to get these attorneys who may have deviated from the straight line back on track. I have no recollection of ever having to send a case to trial. The court still exists, but volunteers are no longer sitting on them as state bar referees.

With all your community involvement through the years, ever thought of running for Mayor?

Politics has never been my thing. I was asked to run for the California Senate, but I said no. It’s the ground work and the people that are important [to me]. It’s when I see a person who has absolutely no experience take on a presidency of an organization somehow turn out to be a whiz at it!

How can someone get involved with community service?

Call the organization they are interested in, come and enjoy various functions. It is amazing to see people get involved and love it! When people give of themselves without receiving anything other than the satisfaction of working with others in the accomplishment of a goal it is simply mindboggling!