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OUR LAGUNA: Leaders looking for coordination

It’s been said — mostly by me — that if there is a cause there is a group in Laguna to support it or oppose it.

About 70 representatives of about 40 of the local groups showed up Tuesday at the Laguna Beach Woman’s Club for a “Leadership Summit” to discuss their needs and the potential of mutual solutions or at least cooperation.

“There is enough power in this room to bring down the cost of fuel,” summit Chairwoman Lee Winocur Field said.

The club held its first summit about two years ago with the idea of finding out what local women needed there and then. The participants didn’t have an answer.

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“They didn’t even know one another,” Field said.

Appalled, Field applied for a city grant to fund an ambitious program that included a Vision Fair and the publication of a pocket guide listing the organizations.

“We started thinking about 90 and ended up with a list of 320,” Field said.

Field asked the city for $15,000 and was given $4,000. She is in the processing of writing a second grant application to submit to the city.

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“We will do what we can with the $4,000 and reapply,” said Field, who can be a bulldog.

But the most ambitious — and valuable — goal of the grant is the development of a community calendar.

A comprehensive calendar that lists all the activities of all the groups has been the Holy Grail of nonprofits since I started covering Laguna almost 25 years ago.

The idea is to avoid duplications of events that drain attendance at fundraisers.

With only 40 groups represented Tuesday, there are already two duplications for spring dates: the Chamber of Commerce Grapes for Grads fundraiser and the Woman’s Club Women’s Art Show on April 26 and the Friends of the Library’s Ladies Who Lunch…and Read fundraiser for the Laguna Library and the Laguna Board of Realtors Taste of Charity — all four established events.

Pity the poor Realtor who also is a member of the chamber, the Woman’s Club and the Friends. Trust me, it is possible.

Given a choice between dropping $100 to attend a black-tie dinner to raise money for the Preservation of Spawning Salmon and rooting for high school quarterback or tap-dancing star of one of Mark Dressler’s production, which do you think a parent would choose?

That means every school activity, every fundraiser, every recognition dinner and every performance by a local group must be included. But no one from the Laguna Beach Concert Band or No Square Theater was at the meeting.

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“Technology is a tool to make this happen, which we didn’t have back in the 1970s when I was on the Coalition Committee,” said former City Councilman Wayne Baglin, who represented the Festival of Arts at the summit and served as timekeeper for the one-minute presentations by the speakers for the groups.

Despite technological advances, it is still a daunting task.

Right now, the chamber publishes a monthly calendar; the Alliance for Arts publishes a calendar that lists four months of arts events and the Coastline Pilot has an unlimited calendar on its web site, open to all groups.

The problem is someone has to manage these calendars, keep the information updated, including removing the contact, who schlepped off to Montana without revising the calendar, and advising the second applicant for a date that it is already taken — not a popular task.

With only 360 days in the year and 300 groups and counting, who would want that job? And would the groups be willing to accept the dictates of a calendar czar?

Well, kudos to the Woman’s Club and Field for addressing the problem. Here’s hoping their cup runneth over.

Following one-minute presentations, the representatives broke into four huddles to discuss their goals, with one assigned to record the 15-minute discussion.

“We want your key ideas to give us direction,” said summit committee member Marion Jacobs, a member of the Woman’s Club and the president of the Laguna Beach Foundation of the American Assn. of University Women, which she represented.

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SchoolPower’s Robin Renoughi reported that her group talked about how they could be served by a coalition of the nonprofits and the Community Foundation. The foundation was organized a couple of years by Michael Pinto, Mary Fegraus and former Mayor Wayne Peterson to connect donors with nonprofits and promote awareness of local charitable events. Although Peterson and Fegraus attended the summit — Fegraus was a committee member — Laura Tarbox represented the foundation.

Renoughi said it was the consensus in her huddle that a coordinating council of nonprofits would be beneficial, as would a master calendar, but it would need “an owner.”

Carole Urie, who represented Returning Home Foundation, said everyone in her group wants and needs a coordinating calendar, perhaps posted on the foundation website.

The group also liked the suggestion of one big fundraiser, with proceeds distributed among the participants, perhaps based on tickets sales.

Friendship Shelter Executive Director Dawn Price reported that the third group favored cooperation among the nonprofits to determine what they needed to do.

“We would like a website with current contact information for the organizations, perhaps by area of interest,” Price reported.

The group also would like see experts brought in to assist the boards of the nonprofits.

“We did in 15 minutes what seminars take all day to do,” said Laguna Beach Relief and Resource Center Chairman Jason Paransky.

Other ideas floated by Paransky, who spoke on behalf of the largest huddle, included a Google calendar, a logo designed for an umbrella group of nonprofits, outreach to exchange volunteers for exception events, an information coordinator to see that events were published, and a workshop with experts to inform the groups.

Field said the next step would be the formation of a steering committee, starting with the four reporters, augmented by volunteers from each of the groups at the summit.

“I hope you thought tonight was productive,” Fields said. “Information about participants will be sent to the organizations.

The summit was taped.

“The possibilities are exciting,” said club President Renae Hinchey, general manager of the Laguna Beach County Water District. “We videotaped the meeting to document the interests of the community.”

Funding and volunteers were the most often mentioned needs by the participating groups — “volunteers with hearts for service” are sought by the Rotary Club of Laguna Beach, said President-elect Rick Lang. But there were some specialized wish lists.

“We need a wildlife corridor from the Cleveland National Forrest through the Great Park to the South Coast wilderness,” said Karl Warkomski, executive director of the Laguna Canyon Foundation.

Marge Earl, speaking for the Laguna Beach High School Scholarship Foundation said more visibility was needed for the foundation, which gave $230,000 in scholarships to 112 seniors in 2008, and a web site for contacting graduates.

The Garden Club is looking for projects to beautify. I volunteered my yard, but I think they are looking for community projects.

Sita Helms said Helping Hands collects food daily for distribution to the needy,

“We move hundreds of thousands of pounds monthly, Helms said.

John Newton’s wish list for the Laguna Chorale is singers.

But some of the participants may have found a match.

Susan Hamil spoke on behalf of the Bluebell Foundation, which houses unwanted and un-adoptable cats, while Penny Anu pleaded for a place to put the cats that she has rescued over the years.

Paransky supported the notion of a city-wide directory with synopses of missions, which Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Rose Hancock said the chamber has produced for years just such a “Community Directory,” updated annually.

“The Woman’s Club sponsored the meeting tonight,” Jacobs said. “From here on, it is up to the people who are here tonight.”

For more information about who attended the summit and which groups are eligible, contact Field at slwf@cox.net, fax (949) 376-4313 or call (949) 497-3034.


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; call (949) 380-4321 or e-mail coastlinepilot@latimes.com.


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