Chamber lunch serves up feel-good stories

The Laguna Beach Chamber of Commerce's 26th annual Leadership Luncheon on Tuesday was a great opportunity for speakers to perfect their elevator pitches, albeit in front of 90 attendees.

Representatives from various nonprofits and businesses, including the Boys & Girls Club of Laguna Beach, Assistance League of Laguna Beach, Laguna Beach Seniors and the Laguna Beach Community Foundation, shared achievements from 2013 and goals for 2014 at Tivoli Too.

While diners enjoyed crepes filled with chicken and mushrooms, Mayor Pro Tem Bob Whalen led off with his priorities, which include improving the city's transit system, encouraging pedestrian activity, hiring an urban planner and "seeing all of you in the business community be successful."

"We always want to hear suggestions from you, and I urge you to show up to [meetings and events] to give input," Whalen said.

Laguna Beach Police Det. Larry Bammer thanked the chamber for helping him promote a fundraiser for a memorial for fallen police officers, which is expected to be placed in front of department headquarters.

"I couldn't have had as successful a fundraiser if it was not for the chamber email blasts," said Bammer, who is also president of the Laguna Beach Police Employees Assn.

Each representative had 60 seconds to explain accomplishments and discuss plans at an event originally started to welcome the Canadian consul general at the Hotel Laguna, according to a chamber brochure.

Beyond welcoming the Canadian consul general, people would introduce themselves to the entire group, the brochure said.

The tradition continued Tuesday.

Mary Ferguson, a Laguna Beach Community Foundation board trustee, said that over the past four years the organization raised $2.5 million for nonprofits, mainly in Laguna.

Ashley Johnson, marketing director with Visit Laguna Beach, reported robust hotel occupancies in the past two weeks and noted the agency's mobile app, which allows users to access tide conditions and parking availability and — when summer hits — track the seasonal trolleys.

The lunch was also an opportunity for established businesses to share how they're evolving.

The T-Shirt Co. at Laguna Beach opened downtown in 1981 and ownership has remained in the family. Lauren Segal took over day-to-day operations from her father, Tillman, and said the business carries more environmentally friendly products and locally made shirts.

The store is also providing a platform for local and international nonprofits to get their message out and raise money through the sale of T-shirts and other merchandise, according to the company's Facebook page.

A percentage of a customer's purchase goes toward a nonprofit, Segal said.

Laguna Beach organizations are also meeting residents' basic needs.

The Laguna Beach Community Clinic, which offers medical, dental and health treatment, served 5,556 patients last year, with 76% of them either working or living in Laguna, clinic Director Adriana Nieto-Sayegh said.

This year, the clinic plans to educate patients about the Affordable Care Act, Nieto-Sayegh said.

The goal of the lunch is to help organizations connect, fostering communication beyond a one-time meeting, said Laura Henkels, chamber event and marketing director.

For more information, visit the organization's website at or call (949) 494-1018.

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