Don Black may have retired from the working world, but he doesn’t stop when it comes to community service.
Black, 89, spends his days with Laguna Beach’s homeless, providing them an ear and a shoulder to cry on through his generous spirit. His wife, Joan Trivett, said Don leaves the house at 6 or 7 a.m. most days and returns around 7 or 8 p.m. after meeting with fellow “citizens.”
Black doesn’t like the term “homeless,” Trivett said. “It’s not the most important fact about the person.”
The Laguna Beach Interfaith Council awarded its first Compassionate Citizen honor to Black at its National Day of Prayer Breakfast on May 2 at Mission Hospital Laguna Beach.
Friends, family and city dignitaries, including Mayor Kelly Boyd and City Councilman Bob Whalen, were in attendance.
They watched a video about Black’s service in which one former homeless woman called him “the pure encapsulation of kindness. He gives more than he has in him.”
Black drives 200 miles per week, shuttling people to job interviews, court appearances, hospital appointments, the DMV and detox facilities. He also pays rental costs for those in sober living homes until the person finds a job.
Black gives those in need his phone number so they can call him any time. He visits spots where the homeless gather, such as near Main Beach and the Alternative Sleeping Location.
In the rainy season, Black has a key to St. Mary’s Episcopal Church so he can pick up 10 to 20 people and take them to the church to sleep.
The ASL, where local congregations provide meals to the homeless every night, sees about 70 people for dinner, but can house only 45 people overnight, said Black, who helps where he can.
“I try to be the presence of God’s unconditional love,” Black said.
As for his endurance, “You’ll have to ask God about that,” he said.
A phone call from big-time community volunteer Sande St. John 14 years ago changed his life.
“She said, ‘Don, I’m here at [Laguna] Presbyterian Church with 40 or 50 people sleeping. Could you come down?’” Black said. “I can’t explain, but when I left three hours later, I knew what I was going to do.”
While offering meals and providing shelter are important, Black tries to go deeper, Trivett said.
“Becoming their friend and finding out why they became homeless” are important to her husband, Trivett said.
The Interfaith Council has encouraged residents to form volunteer groups to serve the homeless. The council will host a volunteer training program from 9 to 10 a.m. June 1 at St. Mary’s Episcopal Church.
“He is a citizen in the community who challenges us to go beyond our comfort, to help those most in need,” said St. Mary’s Rev. Elizabeth Rechter.