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OUR LAGUNA: Community Clinic raises funds with fiesta

More than 150 friends and supporters of the Laguna Beach Community Clinic partied with a purpose at the third annual Cinco de Mayo Fiesta.

The fundraiser netted $21,000, an increase over last year’s event, at a time when many nonprofits are seeing a drastic reduction in financial support.

“This is so encouraging. In an economy where many nonprofits are seeing a decline in donations, the clinic’s supporters are sending a strong message that what we provide to our community is vital and deserving of their contribution,” said Dr. Tom Bent, medical director and chief operating officer of the clinic.

The clinic’s services are needed now more than ever, Bent said.


“Our supporters know that due to the economic downturn, the clinic is experiencing a significant increase in newly uninsured patients,” Bent said. “They also know that despite the extra load this places on the clinic, we’re committed to providing a much-needed safety net for our neighbors in need, regardless of their ability to pay.”

More than 125 guests attended the event, the biggest crowd ever for the fundraiser.

The event was at Phyllis and Dr. Ray Contino’s oceanfront estate, Twin Points, named for the two palm tree-covered points of land that divide Shaw’s Cove and Crescent Bay.

Tickets were $100.


Hearts of Montage pledged to match funds raised up to $7,500, the second grant the charitable group has awarded the clinic, and the crowd pitched in to raise the ante.

For an extra $20, guests could cha cha with one of the professional salsa dancers who entertained or tag a friend to dance for $100, and those “too chicken” to dance could opt out for $200.

Among the tagged: Kent Falk, Montage Business Center Manager Chris Loidolt and event committee members Bent, Debbie Mulligan and Glori Fickling, who showed the pros a trick or two.

A temporary dance floor was placed on the putting green of the estate.

Tables for four or six surrounded the dance floor and extended down one of the points for which the estate is named.

Piñatas of parrots, burros, guitars and stars, and brightly colored cloths and napkins decorated the tables. Sombreros and serapes decorated the buffet tables and bars.

Bent, his wife, Carolyn, who served on the event committee and their daughter, Katie, sold tickets for the two opportunity prize packages. Montage Indulgences, which offered a two-night stay at the posh resort that included a haircut and styling at the Kim Vo salon at the hotel and gift certificates to Taz Asian Fusion and La Sirena Grill, was won by Debbie and Jeff Mulligan. The Best of Laguna package included a stay at the Surf & Sand, tickets to a play at Laguna Playhouse, and gift certificates to 12 local restaurants, won by Joan and Dr. Frank Anderson.

Cancun Fresh catered the Mexican menu of steak and chicken tacos with rice, beans and salsa.


Peter and Jackie McDougall donated the margaritas. Herb Dover donated the wine. Mexican beer with limes and water was also served at the bar.

Among the guests were clinic board members Ann McDonald, Pam Lawrence Horowitz, Barbara Hamkalo, Jay McDonald, Rich Kain, and his wife, Bette, board President John Link Jr. and his wife, Claudia Crawford, and clinic cardiologist Dr Orson Dee.

Also: Barbara and Greg MacGillivray, Robert and Sonja Myerhof, Anne and Mike Morris, Madeleine Peterson, former Mayor Wayne Peterson and Arts Commissioner Terry Smith, Jan and Laguna Beach County Water District Commissioner Bruce Scherer, Fred and event committee member Pam Talerico, John and Mary Kate and Kirk Saunders, who hosted the clinic’s Cinco de Mayo Fiesta in 2007 at their hilltop home.

Frank and Lee Winocur Field, clinic physician Dr. Korey Jorgensen, Stuart Wilson, Garth and Carmen Jorgensen with Brandon, their 1-year-old, who played in the sand trap, left early to make an appearance at the Laguna Beach Seniors Legacy Ball, held the same night.

A different beat

Community Outreach Officer Jason Farris was the guest speaker at the annual members meeting of the Laguna Taxpayers Assn., May 12 at the Aliso Creek Inn.

Farris is the officer who works with Laguna’s homeless — not the job he had in mind when he went to the Police Academy and joined the Laguna Beach Police Department six years ago, after one year on the Newport Beach Police Department.


“I just wanted to go on patrol and arrest the bad guys,” Farris said. “Community outreach was not even considered. I heard about the position, but I was not interested.”

However, he discovered he had some of the qualifications for the job and he reconsidered.

Farris has been working with Laguna’s homeless since January 2008, always with the goal of getting them off the streets and into programs that deal with their specific problems: mostly alcohol-related, sometimes drugs, sometimes physical ailments, sometimes mental or emotion imbalances or a combination of any of the above.

“It has been a good experience,” Farris said. “My viewpoint has changed. When I first got the job, I thought the homeless were just lazy, liars and leaches.

“Harsh words.”

He has come to believe that often the difference between the homeless and the rest of the community is a roof.

“We all know people living from paycheck to paycheck,” Farris said. “When they lose their jobs, they can’t pay rent and they are kicked out.

“Are they psychotic? Nah.

“Are they lazy? No

“Are they alcoholics? Maybe.

“Are they drug addicts? Maybe.

“They might move in with their families, but they might get kicked out of the home for different reasons and they end up living in a car. They can’t pay for insurance or registration and a cop comes along and tickets the car.

“Next thing: the guy — or the woman — is on the streets.”

Before he can help the homeless, Farris has to gain their trust. He asks for their stories and he listens.

“Some will lie — in the beginning,” Farris said. “I offer suggestions — most of the time, it doesn’t work.

“At six months [in the position], I hit the wall. I was really hurting. I’d get someone in a shelter and they were right back out.

“Talk about humbling.”

When one of his contacts ended back on the streets for the third time, Farris was ready to pack it in. Then he was told by someone that it had taken 22 times in and out of programs before he made it.

Despite his early misgivings about his assignment and the setbacks, Farris said, “There is not a single thing I have done in law enforcement that has been more fulfilling.”

His performance on the job was honored at the Exchange Club’s Annual Police Department Awards Breakfast on May 14 as the 2008 Officer of the Year.

Most asked questions: Isn’t it illegal for the homeless to use foul language around children, to beg and to sleep on the beach overnight?

No. No and No.

As the father of four young children, Farris said foul language in public bothers him, but it is protected as Freedom of Expression.

“Sleeping on the beach is a hot topic,” Farris said, “But there is no law forbidding it. You can’t criminalize it if you don’t provide a place for the homeless to sleep.”

The comparison would be the day labor center which the city provided to get the laborers off of city streets in residential neighborhoods.

During his six years with the Laguna Beach Police Department, Farris has received 13 letters of appreciation and accommodations.

The meeting also included the election of the 2009-10 board: Martha Lydick, president; Bobbi Cox, vice president; Ed Peterson, secretary; Howard Pink, treasurer; Sandy Hovanesian, Karl Koski, Ann McDonald, Frank Ricchiazzi, Karyn Philippsen and Patricia Turnier.

Beverly and Bob Mosier, Ara Hovanesian, Angie Peterson, Dennis Myers, Kent Russell, Rick McIntire and Laguna Beach County Water District General Manager Renae Hinchey were elected to the Advisory Committee.

BARBARA DIAMOND can be reached at (949) 380-4321 or