Orange County isn’t known for white Christmases, but this year the holiday season came to Waymakers’ Laguna Beach Youth Shelter in UPS brown — even with same-day delivery courtesy of the local UPS location.
Volunteers from the shipping company’s Laguna Beach office decked the shelter with boughs of holly Thursday afternoon as part of the second Holiday House Decorating Contest in partnership with Waymakers, a Santa Ana-based nonprofit that provides counseling and support services to children and families throughout the county.
Lights were hung with care and candy canes were staked in front of the teal house. From his perch on the deck, the Grinch watched to make sure no one except him and his dog, Max, would be coming to steal Christmas this holiday season while volunteers dressed in brown assembled a Santa Claus and snowman to join him.
The decoration of the Laguna Beach shelter coincided with a similar effort by UPS’ Anaheim hub, which decorated the Tustin Youth Shelter.
Waymakers also operates a youth shelter in Huntington Beach.
Carol Carlson, program director for the Laguna Beach Youth Shelter, said the decorating is a friendly competition conducted through social media. Voting is scheduled to continue through Dec. 1 on Waymakers’ Facebook page. The winning UPS team gets a trophy.
"[The competition] is meant to get us ready for the holidays,” Carlson said. “It’s nice for the kids who will be seeing this over the holiday season to be able to see the house is already decorated, and it’s just a really fun way for the guys and gals of UPS to give back to [the community].”
She said the competition was the brainchild of Heather Stoerck, a Waymakers employee whose husband, Adam, works at the Laguna Beach UPS location. The first competition was held in 2017 but was skipped in 2018, making this the second.
“This time of year is tough for the kids that are here,” Adam Stoerck said. “I know last time we did it, I was able to see the reaction they had with the house being lit up and something they hadn’t had before. It just made me want to keep doing it.”
Matt Zalewski, operations business manager at UPS’ Laguna Beach hub, said the idea of helping the Laguna Beach shelter “hit close to home because I know that in my home community, there was a junior high student that ... took his own life.”
“I think this is just a chance for all of us to get together and get to give time and give effort. I don’t think there’s a better cause than [this],” Zalewski said.
“For me personally, it meant a lot that there are places [for kids] to go, especially in a community like this that a lot of people think here’s nothing wrong,” Zalewski added. “But there are people that need things, and sometimes you can’t go home and get that. I think it’s important for a place like this to be here, and if all we can do is make a person smile when they walk in the door, I think it’s the least we can do.”
Though the competition isn’t the focus of the decorating, Stoerck said he hopes the Laguna Beach UPS location wins this year. Anaheim won the previous time.
“There’s been some trash talking at work,” Stoerck joked. “Just to make it fun. ... We’re hoping to win this year and take the trophy.”