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Kind Stranger Offers His Hand, Gives Inspiration

August 14, 1994

* Two friends and I were very fortunate on July 24 to survive, relatively unscratched, a four-car collision on Highway 126 that left two people dead and nine injured. Perhaps as amazing as our survival was the individual we met almost afterward.

My perception of a guardian angel has usually conjured up the image of the character Clarence in "It's a Wonderful Life." Joe Venegas is no less of a guardian angel.

He and his wife, Noeme, and children were going on an outing to Santa Paula and were delayed by the accident. The fact that it took over two hours for us to be able to leave the scene did not deter him from offering us assistance in any way possible. Not only did Mr. Venegas greatly alleviate our stress. He later provided a safe and secure atmosphere for us in his home while we waited to be picked up.

He is an inspiration to me and my friends as we reflect on today's society beset with distrust, xenophobia and generalized alienation. It's reassuring to know that there are still people out there, like Joe Venegas, who will go out of their way to help a stranger.

BARBARA GIFFORD

Woodland Hills

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