Holy Trinity’s Eagles Have Landed

New Eagle Scouts (l to r): Brad Fistonich, Matt Yracheta and Austin Leavitt (photo: Anita Yracheta & Julio Lemus)

Brad Fistonich, Austin Leavitt and Matt Yracheta aren’t your typical high school seniors. In addition to balancing varsity football, heavy class loads and choosing between college acceptance letters, the 18-year-olds have spent ten years going camping, earning merit badges and moving up in the ranks of the Boy Scouts of America. Three months ago, all three became Eagle Scouts, the highest rank in scouting, and an honor earned by only 5 percent of scouts annually.

On March 9, Fistonich, Leavitt and Yracheta had their Eagle Scout Court of Honor at Holy Trinity Parish, where they are members of Troop 234, and are the 24th, 25th and 26th scouts in the history of the troop to make Eagle. Congresswoman Janice Hahn was on hand to present them with certificates of honor from President Barack Obama.

“I’m extremely proud of what Matt, Austin and Brad have accomplished; they are great scouts and excellent role models for San Pedro’s youth both in and out of scouting,” says Troop 234 Scoutmaster Dwayne Cooper. “One of the aims of scouting is to develop well-rounded young men who are prepared to give back to their community. Through the service they provided in their scouting career and especially their Eagle projects, they have already begun to give back.”

Although the teens began their paths to Eagle Scout in different troops and went to different high schools – Yracheta attends the San Pedro High School Marine Science Magnet, and Fistonich and Leavitt go to Mary Star of the Sea High School – the three have developed and maintained a tight bond strengthened by their shared experience of making Eagle Scout.

“Boy Scouts isn’t all fun and games; it’s serious stuff and in the end, it’s very rewarding,” says Fistonich, who started out as a Cub Scout at Holy Trinity before bridging over to the Boy Scouts, eventually becoming a Senior Patrol Leader. Of the 21 merit badges needed to become an Eagle Scout, his favorite was the Shotgun Merit Badge.

In addition to the merit badges, Eagle Scouts must plan, lead and oversee a volunteer service project. Fistonich organized a 40-volunteer effort to renovate the gardening center at Silver Spur Elementary School in Rancho Palos Verdes.

“The whole process was two days, but there were dozens of prep days, which were probably even harder than the actual work days,” he says.

Leavitt spent months planning his project last summer to clean up his school’s deteriorating shipping container-turned weight room. The swimmer and honor roll student oversaw almost 50 volunteers. During his scouting career, he earned the 60 Nights of Camping Badge and reached the highest rank at Chawanakee Summer Camp.

“It’s been a long journey and it’s really nice to be able to finish after 10 years,” he says. “As you move up in the ranks, you figure out what you want to do and how you’re going to lead and be an example to others.”

For his service project, Yracheta led a two-weekend effort to replenish emergency kits in classrooms at Holy Trinity School. He’s also participated in food drives and camped in all types of weather conditions, earning him the 20 Nights Camping award. A member of San Pedro High School’s 2011 Marine League Title-winning varsity football team, he likens scouting to sports.

“When my team went 10-0, it was just like Boy Scouts in that when it was tiring and we wanted to stop and go home, we just had to keep pushing and pushing and go for gold.”

All three teens thank their parents, families, friends and scoutmaster for supporting them through their journeys to Eagle. They have all received multiple acceptance letters from universities. Yracheta plans on attending Marymount College and ultimately UCLA, Leavitt plans on attending California State University Long Beach, and Fistonich is still deciding.

“I think the Boy Scouts has given my son confidence, maturity, and the ability to speak in front of lots of people,” says Brad’s mother, Sharon Fistonich. “I think it’s a great growing experience and I’m very proud. I know all three boys will be friends for life.”

Yaracheta and Leavitt have been scouts together since they were Cub Scouts at Taper Elementary School, where Austin’s father Cary Leavitt was a Den Leader.

“I think the Boy Scout experience gives young men the skills and confidence to succeed at anything they do in the future,” Cary Leavitt says. “At Holy Trinity’s Troop 234, Dwayne Cooper is the most patient and understanding leader.”

Yracheta’s mother Anita says her son and Leavitt have developed a strong bond during the past 10 years that hasn’t changed despite going to different high schools.

“Matt and Austin have been friends since second or third grade, and even though they went to different high schools, it never changed their friendship. The scouts have kept them connected,” she says. “To see them grow and mature into such nice young men has been great. I’m proud of all three to be able to have accomplished what they have.” spt

From Puppy Love To Soulmates

Photos by John Mattera Photography

It began as a schoolyard crush.

We all remember that feeling, that queasy stomach every time that person entered the classroom, the nervousness that came when you tried to talk to one another. The awkward glances. The overanalyzing of every word they said and move they made. It’s puppy love and it’s supposed to prepare us for the romantic experiences that would lie ahead in all our lives. For some, puppy love can lead to something much bigger. Such is the case for Petar and Magali (Martin) Blazevic, whose schoolyard crush turned into a lifetime commitment of happiness.

Petar and Magali met in the sixth grade at Miraleste Intermediate School in Rancho Palos Verdes. They entered into what Magali would call, “a middle school romance – the kind where you date for a few days and then move on.” Although their relationship fizzled, their friendship didn’t, and they continued to remain close all throughout middle school and into high school. They both dated other people their freshman year at Palos Verdes Peninsula High School, but when their sophomore year came around, they thought they’d give romance another shot and began dating once more. The two have been together ever since.

In 2008, Petar and Magali took their relationship to the next level and the two moved in together. Three years (and two dogs) later, they bought a home in San Pedro.

Just months after purchasing their home, their relationship would take yet another big step. Magali had just completed the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) program at Mary Star of the Sea Catholic Church, and as a reward for finishing the program, Petar wanted to treat her to a day of whale watching on his friend’s yacht on Easter Sunday. While out on the water, the boat came to a stop in front of a lifeguard tower in Redondo Beach. But this was no ordinary lifeguard tower – this was the same lifeguard tower Petar asked Magali to be his girlfriend their sophomore year of high school. This time around, Petar asked Magali to be his wife, of course, she said yes.

The couple married on July 14, 2012, which was also their anniversary. More than 200 attendants watched Petar and Magali share their vows at Mary Star Church, a ceremony officiated by Father Brian Nunes, who also baptized Magali following her RCIA completion. The ceremony had many special moments, including Magali walking down the aisle with both of her parents. Magali also wore a necklace containing a diamond her grandfather gave to her mother before his passing. The ceremony also featured readings from Petar’s cousin, which was in Croatian, and Magali’s cousin, which was in French – both in celebration and honor of their heritages.

The bridal party was just as special, and consisted of numerous relatives and friends. On Magali’s side were maid-of-honors Lauren Johnson and Alyse Intagliata; and bridesmaids Janessa Reyes, Lisa Vidov, Kristen Boskovich, Kristin Montti, Stacie Ayala, and Katie Tamayo. On Petar’s side were best men Mark Blazevic and Michael Blazevic; and groomsmen Serge Martin, Peter Hazdovac, Drew Varela, Loren Blazevic, Brian Ayala, and Joe Vidov.

After the ceremony, Petar and Magali went to take photos with his grandmother at her home because she couldn’t make it to the ceremony, a moment that meant a lot to both Petar and his grandmother. Meanwhile, guests got to enjoy Croatian spirits during the cocktail hour.

The reception followed at Hotel Maya in Long Beach, where guests participated in lots of dancing, drinking, and of course, Croatian desserts and Kolo dancing (the popular Croatian folk dance). The reception also featured a blessing by Petar’s mother and a speech by Magali’s mother. Petar and Magali shared their first dance to Jason Mraz’s, “I Won’t Give Up.”

The newly married couple honeymooned in Hawaii, where they spent 10 days between the islands of Maui and Oahu. Their favorite part? Staying at the very private, exclusive Turtle Bay Resort in North Shore, Oahu.

Currently, Petar works as a railroad conductor for the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad Co., and Magali works as a tutor for Academics Etc. in Lunada Bay.

In regards to adjusting to married life, Magali says, “It’s really not that much different than before – besides the fact that I have to change my name on everything!” All joking aside, the two are excited to continue in their love through marriage, and are looking forward to someday starting a family. spt

Dressing To Impress Without The Stress

Chris and Alena Castillo with their two children, Tyler (right) and Krista (photo by John Mattera)

There’s a new spot in town where fashionistas can pick up designer threads and accessories for a steal: Finders Keepers Consignment Boutique.

Mannequins dressed to the nines line the shop windows on Western Avenue before Summerland, where owner Alena Castillo opened for business this July. In three months, she’s built an enthusiastic base of customers and consigners, followings on social media and has earned glowing reviews.

“I opened the store July 1 with 600 items, and now we have over 4,000,” says Castillo, a San Pedro native and casual longshoreman. After working her way up through management at Nordstrom and the Gap, the wife and mother of two realized her dream of opening a consignment shop in her hometown.

“I always knew I wanted to open up a store, and one day I was at a consignment store in Redondo Beach and I thought, ‘Gosh, San Pedro and Rancho Palos Verdes really needs something like this,” she says. “I really think this is something our town has needed for so long. I always had to drive out to the Galleria or Del Amo and now with gas prices, hopefully people can come here, and they’ll get a great deal too.”

With the business guidance from her uncle and help from her husband and high school sweetheart Chris, Castillo started planning, found a location, put out a call for items on Facebook, and made Finders Keepers a reality.

“It’s been so far, so good, every month it’s gotten better. It’s been all word of mouth,” Castillo says. “I already have regulars.”

Staying on top of trends gets expensive, and consigning offers a return on purchases that were investments, or nice items worn only once or twice. At Finders Keepers, consigners get 50 percent of the profit from their items, or 60 percent in store credit. Castillo says about half opt for store credit.

“We have over 150 consigners and every single item in the store is from somebody that lives in San Pedro or Rancho Palos Verdes,” she says. “So many people that used to consign at places in Redondo now come here because it’s more convenient and it’s closer.”

Castillo looks for quality, name brand and designer clothes, shoes and accessories that are new or gently used. The store carries mostly women and kids’ items, but does have a rolling rack of men’s clothes. She also has a plus size section.

“I would say we specialize in our denim and our dresses, the selection is killer,” Castillo says. If customers have specific requests, she’ll call them when one comes in.

For an idea of prices, designer jeans usually go for $50 or less. Recently, someone snagged a pair of brand-new Christian Louboutin shoes for $140. But if Alexander McQueens, Marc Jacobs handbags and True Religions aren’t your style, there’s an entire back room of items for $10 or less.

“I think people come here to find items that are somewhat trendy, but are a good basic,” Castillo says. Her selection offers versatility that works for all ages. When the store first opened, a 20-year-old came in and bought a jacket consigned by a 55-year-old woman.

“If you want something trendy you’ll go to Forever 21 and spend $10 on a top, but the items here are different because they’re name brand, so they’re better quality,” Castillo says. “Maybe they’re a brand or style someone wouldn’t usually buy, but because of the price, they’re more likely to try it on here.”

Once a month, Finders Keepers hosts an after-hours wine and cheese social usually coinciding with a sale. The store also carries handmade jewelry crafted by Lynn Links, a nearby resident battling cancer, for whom jewelry-making is cathartic. Her pieces, specializing in stone and shells, are very popular.

A first-time business owner herself, Castillo comes from a family of San Pedro retailers. Her grandparents owned the Kitchen Shop at Ports O’ Call Village in the ‘60s and ‘70s.

“If I was to say thank you to anybody, it would definitely be my husband. He’s made this happen and he’s been my biggest fan. My mom has been very supportive and I have some friends that helped me open,” Castillo says. “For being open for three months, a lot of positive things have happened so far and it can only get better, I’m very optimistic.” spt

Finders Keepers Consignment Boutique is located at 29619 S. Western Ave in Rancho Palos Verdes. For more information, call (310)521-1969.

Meet the Author’s Day

These authors have penned some of the most popular new books in the secular community and in our Catholic faith community. Enjoy a brief presentation by each author and an opportunity to have your book signed. These books will be available in our Heavenly Bound Book & Gift Store. Refreshments will be served. For reservations for this event, call Irma at (310) 377-4867 ext 234. The cost of the event is $10.00.

Los Serenos de Point Vicente Open House

The Open House will feature educational exhibits, historical Early California costumed characters, refreshments, souvenirs, and spectacular views from the native plant garden to the Point Vicente lighthouse. The lighthouse will be open for tours, and children must be at least 7 years of age to tour the lighthouse tower. This event is free and open to the public. For information, call (310)377-5370.

‘Chants’ of a Lifetime

Learn great Gregorian chants in this series of 3 one-hour workshops. Classes take place on Oct. 30th, Nov. 6th and Nov. 20th. The final session on December 4 begins with tea, followed by a concert and Sunday Mass using the Gregorian chants learned in the series. A specially prepared workbook is included. Cost: 3 workshops, Tea & Concert on December 4: $105 ($95 by Oct. 11). Call Irma Manley at (310) 377-4867 Ext. 234 for reservations or general information.