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OUR LAGUNA:Students inspired by generous donations

If money makes the world go round, Laguna Beach is spinning.

Last week, Hearts of Montage presented a $350,000 check to match the funds raised by Laguna Beach Seniors Inc. toward construction of an activity center, and the Laguna Beach Scholarship Foundation announced that about $190,000 was to be awarded to 2007 graduating high school seniors.

Donors to the Laguna Beach High School scholarships and awards were honored at a reception before the annual Honors Convocation on June 6.

“The Laguna Beach Scholarship Foundation and its many generous contributors arm us with the tools and confidence to find success, and I speak for all scholarship recipients when I say thank you and you’ll hear from us in the future,” said 2005 graduate Adria Kloke, now a student at UC Berkeley. “I have always known that Laguna is a special place, filled with special people. The scholarships and opportunities awarded are an exemplary marker of the passion of this place.

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“Students like me are offered the opportunity to express our needs, our desires and why we deserve what we feel we can achieve — and our words do not fall on deaf ears.”

Kloke was one of two past recipients to speak at the reception, a tradition that warms donors’ hearts — and apparently boosts fundraising efforts, with the money mounting each year.

“When you give a scholarship, in a way you’re giving a dream,” said 1995 graduate Craig Hammill, the recipient of scholarships from Rotary and the Festival of Arts and the McPhisto Society Humor Award. “When someone says ‘Here’s some money, we believe in you, we want to see you succeed,’ you feel such a tremendous uplift to the pursuit of your dream. It encourages you, emboldens you, and it also makes you feel very responsible to seeing that dream come true.”

The McPhisto award, which was a suitcase packed with slips of paper representing 400,000 lire, came in handy during Hammill’s years at USC, from which he graduated in 1999, and postgraduate studies.

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“I used them to write down ideas for movies,” said Hammill, who has known since he was 13 that he wanted to write and direct films. “They lasted me all the way through my [master’s degree in fine arts].”

Another tradition at the reception is the recognition of a district staff member who furthers the goals of the foundation.

A cap embroidered with LBHS Scholarship Foundation 2007 Honoree was presented to Art Smart, an appropriate gift for a man who has worn many hats during his 35 years in the district, said Debra Steele, outgoing foundation president.

Smart began his career as a physical education and science teacher in 1971 at Thurston Middle School, inspired by LaVerne Dugger, a teacher and coach at the high school as well as head of the lifeguards, which is how Smart met him.

“I would never have imagined that taking a lifeguard test would have taken me on this life’s journey,” Smart said.

Smart moved to the high school in 1979, at which he has served as teacher, assistant principal and student activities director. For most of those years he has been a member of the foundation’s faculty committee.

Smart said he has been buoyed by a supportive administration, board of education and parents in the district.

“But the students have touched my heart,” Smart said. “They have been sons and daughters. They are what this night is all about.”

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The foundation was created in 1986 and became a chapter of Dollars for Scholars in 1988. However, an Ebell Club scholarship preceded the foundation by more than 40 years. The first Ebell award, a check for $150, was made in June of 1946, club member Carrie Joyce said.

When Chuck Harrell graduated in 1965, Ebell, the Festival of Arts, the National Honor Society and the California Scholarship Federation presented awards.

“It has grown from there,” said Jeannie Harrell, scholarship coordinator at the high school and a foundation trustee.

Also serving as trustees: Marge Earl, who is stepping up from vice president to succeed Steel; Ketta Brown, secretary; Bob Earl, treasurer; and board members Marsha Aronoff, Patti Jo Kiraly, Margie Bell, Eleanor Tiner, Blynn Bunney, Diane Kloke, Mitchellene Channels, Deborah Rabben, Fletcher Dice, Lee Kucera, Lynn Fair, Lauren Packard, Mary Fegraus, Robin Hall, Walt Lawson, Jan Henderson, Fariba Mortazavi, Angela Irish, Barbara MacGillivray, Julia Johnson and Gail McClain. Sue Cohen and Sann King retire this year.

Steel served as mistress of ceremonies at the reception.

Among the quotes that she sprinkled throughout the program, her personal favorite is, “If you think education is expensive, try ignorance.”

ALL HEART

The Hearts of Montage blockbuster check was handed over on last Friday at the construction site.

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“With this check, we now have sufficient funds for the building,” said Ann Quilter, co-chair with Darrcy Loveland Bickel of the seniors capital campaign.

Seniors President Lee Andersen accepted the check.

“It was presented by the same group that offered the challenge at Legion Hall in April of 2005,” said Hearts board member Chris Loidolt, Montage Business Center manager and longtime Laguna resident.

The $350,000 check was in addition to the $150,000 donated during the two-year capital campaign, earmarked for operating expenses of the funding drive and to hire an executive director.

On Monday, the seniors welcomed their new Executive Director Bea Fields at their annual picnic, chaired by Sande St. John, city Senior Services Coordinator Patty Koss and Buckley. The Veterans of Foreign Wars cooked the food provided by the Exchange Club and served by Hearts of Montage members.

Hearts of Montage was created in 2003 by the resort and spa employees who wanted to serve the community first as volunteers, then fundraisers and donors, Loidolt said.

Priority is given to Laguna Beach nonprofit organizations that concern themselves with the underlying causes of societal and environmental problems.

The four primary recipients have been the seniors, the Boys and Girls Clubs of Laguna Beach, the Laguna Beach Education Foundation, popularly known as SchoolPower, and the Ocean Institute in Dana Point.

To a lesser degree, support also has been given to the Friends of the Laguna Beach Library, Crystal Cove Alliance and Gallimaufry’s program at the Boys and Girls Clubs, among others.


  • OUR LAGUNA is a regular feature of the Laguna Beach Coastline Pilot. Contributions are welcomed. Write to Barbara Diamond, P.O. Box 248, Laguna Beach, 92652; hand-deliver to Suite 22 in the Lumberyard, 384 Forest Ave.; call (949) 494-4321 or fax (949) 494-8979.

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