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Love Laguna Beach brings citywide day of volunteering

Summer Samuelian and her brother, Charlie, paint portions of the Heisler Park gazebo.
Volunteers, including Summer Samuelian and her brother, Charlie, paint portions of the Heisler Park gazebo during the Love Laguna Beach citywide day of volunteering on Saturday.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

For the first time in Laguna Beach, a citywide day of volunteering was organized last Saturday under the banner of Love Laguna Beach, as more than 100 volunteers came together to make a sizable impact in just a few hours.

Love Laguna Beach saw the volunteers convene at the Susi Q and Community Center, before heading out into the community to work on a variety of projects.

Gail Onodera, a coordinator of Saturday’s event, said 13 projects were completed on Saturday morning. Those included a cleanup of Main Beach, a fresh painting of the gazebo in Heisler Park and a food drive at local grocery stores.

“What was really cool … was our students at the high school, how they really embraced this and came up with ideas on their own of projects, as well as helped participate in terms of making all the signs for the projects, and they showed up and got involved in other projects,” Onodera, who is a leader with the children’s ministry at Laguna Presbyterian Church, said.

“That food drive project at the grocery stores was all them. They organized it, put it together, got the supplies they needed, printed out the list of items that they wanted people to shop for. Then they went and sorted all the food, brought it to the food pantry, so they just totally ran with that.”

Volunteers clean up after painting portions of the Heisler Park gazebo during the Love Laguna Beach event.
Volunteers clean up after painting portions of the Heisler Park gazebo during the Love Laguna Beach event on Saturday.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

Two Friendship Shelter projects saw participants clean out the facility’s storage room, while another team helped clean the alternate sleeping location in the canyon.

Julie Flesner, who grew up in the small town of Carterville, Ill., and later lived for several years in the Portland area, rediscovered a small-town feeling in Laguna Beach. After years of visiting the coastal community on vacation, she decided to make a permanent move last year.

“I’ve been living here a year and just work too much and haven’t gotten out and really met new people yet,” Flesner said. “When I started seeing the ads for the volunteer day circulating on social media, I was really excited to sign up for a project, and the Friendship Shelter project, specifically. It’s just a cause that’s near and dear to my heart, and I was happy to jump in and help on that project.”

Flesner added that the Friendship Shelter’s motto of “Opening Doors Since 1988” spoke to her because she wants to shed “some of the stigma attached to homelessness.”

All the projects were completed by noon, Onodera said.

“Everyone’s out there doing it at the same time making a huge dent in all of this, and huge progress,” Onodera said. “… It’s so impactful, I feel like, to do it all at once like this, and to just really get out there, and in the process, so many people met individuals. It was so cool to watch all these connections being made.”

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