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L.B.'s Pacific Marine Mammal Center wades into new waters with Huntington Beach kiosk

A new Pacific Marine Mammal Center kiosk opened at Huntington Beach's Pacific City shopping center on July 7.
The Pacific Marine Mammal Center kiosk at Pacific City in Huntington Beach opened in a donated space to raise funds and awareness in support of the Laguna Beach nonprofit.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

After 50 years of rescuing, rehabilitating and releasing cetaceans from Seal Beach to San Onofre, the Pacific Marine Mammal Center and its mission of ocean conservation is beginning to migrate beyond the cozy Laguna Beach canyon it calls home.

Leaders and volunteers of the local nonprofit celebrated the July 7 opening of a new kiosk at Pacific City shopping center in Huntington Beach, where shoppers are able to purchase PMMC-themed attire, toys and other coastal commodities and learn more about the cause.

“[We’re] responsible for 52 miles of coastline, and 25% of our patients come from Huntington Beach, so it’s great to have a presence and an educational hub in Huntington,” spokeswoman Krysta Higuchi said Friday.

The Pacific Marine Mammal Center kiosk at Pacific City in Huntington Beach.
Thanks to a new kiosk at Pacific City, people can shop for Huntington Beach-themed merchandise and learn more about Laguna Beach nonprofit Pacific Marine Mammal Center, now in its 50th year.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

The small shop is manned by rotating shifts of volunteers working every Friday through Sunday, from 11:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m., to spread the word of the work being done to preserve and protect species living along a stretch of coastline that encompasses Orange County’s beachfront.

All proceeds raised will benefit PMMC, and the goal is that one month of sales will raise enough funds to cover the cost of fully rehabilitating one marine mammal patient, which typically ranges from $2,500 to $3,500.

The new venture is a collaboration with Centennial Real Estate, which manages the oceanfront shopping complex and donated one of its available retail kiosks. With the addition of some Huntington Beach-themed merchandise and souvenirs, the hope is to attract the attention of tourists as well as locals already familiar with the rescue group.

Jen Williams, marketing director for Centennial, said she knew about PMMC but really came to learn more about the organization and its long history when she joined the Ocean Club, a newly formed women’s auxiliary whose aim is to broker partnerships and brainstorm new ways to expand outreach and support for the nonprofit.

She loved the mission and the members so much she dived right in. When Pacific City was celebrating the May 26 opening of an on-site “Reading Reef” lending library for children, Williams invited the Pacific Marine Mammal Center to join in the fun.

“Once they saw the kiosk, they said, is there any way we could possibly do something like this?” Williams recalled. “Since the ocean is our front yard, it just made sense we’d partner with a marine rescue center that focuses on ocean conservation — it was 100% right up our alley.”

Juliette Raad, right, volunteers her time at the Pacific Marine Mammal Center kiosk at Pacific City in Huntington Beach.
Juliette Raad, right, volunteers her time Friday at the Pacific Marine Mammal Center kiosk at Pacific City in Huntington Beach, where all proceeds benefit the Laguna Beach nonprofit.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

Creating a satellite presence beyond the current center’s modest acreage is an exciting prospect for an organization that began as Friends of the Sea Lion in 1971 with two lifeguards and a veterinarian rehabbing seals and sea lions in a bathtub and has since rescued more than 10,000 animals.

“This partnership, and the way the Ocean Club is bringing new levels of philanthropy to PMMC, is just fantastic,” Higuchi said. “It’s all about word of mouth, collaboration and community support and we’re so grateful.”

For Williams, having the mammal center folks at Pacific City is a good fit and something Centennial would love to continue and possibly grow.

“It’s an amazing organization and with the local volunteers, it’s just a great fit,” she said. “I’d love to see them be a big part of Huntington Beach.”

Healthy recovering sea lions slip and slid on slick pavement at the Pacific Marine Mammal Center March 9, 2021.
(File Photo)

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