The two young women walking into the boutique gift shop at Encino-Tarzana Regional Medical Center Friday morning were looking for the woman who runs the shop. Maria Ramona Rebueno and Karen Mizrahi wanted to thank Barbara Charles for helping make their childhood dreams come true. This Monday morning, both young women will walk back inside the hospital in uniform to begin their careers as licensed vocational nurses. They couldn’t have done it without the help of the hospital’s charitable foundation and Charles, who revamped the hospital’s gift shops into popular mini-boutiques that help raise even more funds for nursing scholarships. All those boxes of See’s Candies, all those newspapers and magazines, all those flowers, stuffed animals and other boutique items that Charles and her volunteer staff sold last year helped provide almost $58,000 for 39 nursing scholarships. “Without the $1,200 scholarship I received, it would have been tough, awfully tough financially, to get through school, work, and take care for my two children,” Maria said. Both Karen and Maria attended classes two days a week at West Valley Occupational Center in Woodland Hills to complete the tough 12-month LVN program. They spent another three days at the hospital as certified nurses aides. Like Charles’ hospital gift shops, the occupational center is another one of those overlooked jewels in the Valley where things happens – lessons are learned – that help young adults have a career they could have never afforded otherwise. The tuition at a private school for the LVN license runs anywhere from $25,000 to $30,000 a year. At the West Valley Occupational Center – a Los Angeles Unified School District school – tuition was $200. “We spent probably another $2,500 for books, uniforms, and other things we needed, but that’s a far cry from $25,000,” Karen said. Trying to reduce a nursing shortage in the Valley and help give a leg up to motivated young people wanting to enter the medical profession, is the reason the Tarzana hospital partners with the occupational center in training nurses, said Jody Junor, director of education at the hospital. “These two young women will start their careers Monday with the latest teaching knowledge and an inquisitiveness to ask questions and keep our nurses already here fresh,” she said. “Everybody pushes everybody around here to stay on top.” With a nursing shortage, there were other local hospitals Maria and Karen could have chosen to work at. But they never had any doubts that they’d come back to the hospital that gave them a chance, they said. “A lot of hospitals don’t have training opportunities for student nurses because they’re afraid of the liability,” Karen said. “This hospital gave us a chance. The people here cared. We’re indebted to them. This is where we want to have our careers.” Maria agreed. “When they gave me that scholarship, it was overwhelming. My family was so proud. I started to cry. “I’ve always dreamed of becoming a nurse and now I am one. Monday morning I’m walking through those doors collecting a paycheck as a nurse. Incredible.” That’s why two young women were walking into that gift shop Friday morning looking for the woman who runs the place. To say thank you. Dennis McCarthy’s column appears Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Sunday. email@example.com (818) 713-3749 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!