A company full of soul

About 100 people gathered for the launch of the Soul Project at Don and Summer Meek's Laguna Beach home Wednesday night.

While sipping on Peligroso tequila and munching on tacos, guests mingled with the founders and artists who are taking part in the Soul Project, an apparel company that partners with local artists and charities in different cities in an effort to get the word out and support "soul places."

Soul places, Summer Meek said, are places in the world that you connect to and hold a place within you.

Summer Meek was born and raised in Laguna Beach. She said that fact might make her a bit biased, but she's not the only person who finds that the city has a lot of soul — the packed house Wednesday was one indication of that.

"I can be gone for five minutes, five days or five years, and I hit the canyon and I know I'm home," she said.

Once they decided on Laguna Soul, the Meeks immediately started thinking of other cities with soul — such as Newport Beach; Del Mar; Sun Valley, Idaho; and Montauk, N.Y.

An exciting aspect of the brand is that it gives back, Don Meek said.

One dollar from each product — which includes tees, hoodies, hats and totes — goes to a local charity. In Laguna's case, the charities are the Boys & Girls Club of Laguna Beach and the South Orange County Chapter of the Surfrider Foundation.

"We feel like a healthy environment and happy kids are a key to the future," Summer Meek said.

In each city, they plan to find relevant charities and artists who will be the visionaries behind the brand in the city. In Laguna Beach, Summer Meek recruited her cousin and local legend Steven "Sli Dawg" Chew to be their artists in residence.

Laguna photographer Geoff Ragatz and artist Elliot Whalen were also recruited to produce graphics for the apparel. All three artists had works on display Wednesday for an auction, which raised $1,000 for both charities.

"I thought it was a great idea," said Whalen, 24. "I love the socially conscious aspect of the business."

The Meeks said the next city they plan to launch is Newport Beach Soul.

For more information, visit the Soul Project's Facebook page at facebook.com/thesoulproject or Twitter at twitter.com/thesoul_project.

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