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Councilman donates his stipend to charities

Michael Vo of Fountain valley uses three-person committee to help pick recipients of the money.

November 16, 2011|By Michael Miller
  • Fountain Valley Councilman Michael Vo, left, watches as Nicky Bustamante, 13, uses a new Apple computer to work on a project Tuesday. Vo helped buy the new computer by donating his monthly council stipend to the Boys & Girls Club at Mile Square Regional Park.
Fountain Valley Councilman Michael Vo, left, watches… (KEVIN CHANG, HB…)

Michael Vo fulfilled a longtime dream last year of being elected to the Fountain Valley City Council. But he's not in it for the money.

And if anyone doubts that, he has a committee to back him up.

After Vo defeated incumbent Cheryl Brothers in November, he announced that he would consider his post a volunteer job and donate his $475 monthly stipend to charity. The candidate kept his promise, and soon after taking office, he set up a three-person committee to choose recipients for the money.

In addition, Vo has refused to take any medical benefits from the city because he has coverage from his job with the American General Life and Accident Insurance Co.

"I want an opportunity to give back and help the community, and I receive the benefits from my work already," Vo said.

The committee, consisting of Fountain Valley Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Beverly White, insurance broker Wayne Carr and web designer Eric Kirkhurff, has allotted funds to four groups in town.

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So far, the group has given cash to the Fountain Valley Historical Society and Fountain Valley Community Foundation, paid for a chamber event that connected students to the business world, and bought an Apple computer for the Boys & Girls Clubs of Huntington Valley.

The next recipients, Vo said, will be four churches that do charity drives for Thanksgiving.

The committee hasn't gotten formal requests for donations yet, but uses its community connections, especially through the chamber, to identify possible beneficiaries.

"Between the three of us, we know the needs," White said.

Carr said Vo offers an occasional suggestion, but otherwise leaves the choices up to the committee. He added that he hadn't heard of any other local politicians who give their entire stipend to causes.

"The fact that Michael is doing this, I think, speaks a whole lot about him," Carr said.

In the case of the Boys & Girls Clubs, the committee asked Executive Director Art Groeneveld what the club might be able to do with $1,000. Groeneveld replied that a number of kids had asked for a Macintosh in the computer room, which otherwise consists of PCs.

Cassidy Walley, an 11-year-old sixth-grader at Kazuo Masuda Middle School, said she often uses the Macintosh to create PowerPoints and edit videos for the Teens Doing It Right club, which educates younger kids about healthy lifestyles.

"It's easier to use on a Mac than a PC," Cassidy said.

michael.miller@latimes.com

Twitter: @MichaelMillerHB

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