Foundation taps into wealth of needs

Coastline Pilot

The Laguna Beach Community Foundation began to fulfill its promise to energize philanthropy in town with the distribution of $80,000 in grants.

Twenty local nonprofit organizations were presented with checks ranging from $1,000 to $10,000 at the inaugural grant awards luncheon, held May 19 at the home of Trustee Don Clurman. Almost half of the grants were given for operations, always needed, but seldom funded.

"This is just the beginning," Board of Trustees Chairwoman Laura Tarbox said. "Our goal is to distribute $1 million in the next three years. It is an ambitious goal, but we are well on our way."

The group's mission was publicly launched in May 2009 with the announcement of a $500,000 anonymous donation to seed an endowment fund, from which grants would be supported. However, the origins of the group went back to 2003 when Peter Kote, Michael Pinto, Mary Fegraus and former Mayor Wayne Peterson began kicking around the idea of a foundation that would be a source of information as well as cash for local nonprofits.

Their notion took a while to get off the ground, but it gathered momentum in 2008 after the founding group was expanded.

"We are young, but we are inspiring others in the community," said Cathy Krinski, grant committee chair. "We need your help. All of you here have the opportunity to go out and talk about the foundation."

Awards were distributed in alphabetical order, starting with Animal Crackers Pet Rescue and ending with The Collective Sound, which was awarded $1,000 to fund an after-school program to nurture future innovators and leaders.

Recipients were given a minute each to explain how the money would benefit them.

Animal Crackers was awarded $1,000 to help pay for the "re-homing" and care of adoptable pets found or rescued from high-kill shelters, by pet supply-and-grooming store owner Gina Kantzabedian.

"More than 700 animals have been placed in the last three years, mostly in Laguna Beach," said Helen Evers, vice president.

Some of those pets have been featured in the Coastline Pilot on a weekly basis.

Boys & Girls Club of Laguna Beach received one of the two $10,000 awards for operations.

"All kids are at risk today," said Pamela Estes, executive director of the club, the mission of which is to enable Laguna's youngsters to reach their full potential. "Thanks for helping us build resiliency."

Kathleen Burnham, executive director of Community Courts Foundation, said she loves what the Boys & Girls Club does for Laguna's youth, but if it doesn't work, the kids come to her.

"This [$4,500] grant will help them make the transition," Burnham said.

Dawn Price, executive director of Friendship Shelter, said the economy has made it difficult for charitable organizations and the $4,500 operations grant from the foundation will help the shelter continue its mission to restore homeless adults to self-sufficiency.

Other groups that received $4,500 operations grants included Helping Hands World Wide, represented by Sita Helms; Laguna Beach Seniors Inc., represented by board President Chris Quilter; and the Laguna Relief and Resource Coalition, for a new office and refrigeration equipment.

The Community Clinic was presented with a $10,000 check for operations, so welcome in these economic times.

"The newly uninsured are our fastest-growing patient population," said development director Monica Prado, who expects the clinic to serve more than 17,000 patients this year.

Operation grants of $1,000 each were presented to Laguna Beach Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 5868, to Sally's Fund, which provides transportation for independently living seniors, enhancing the quality of their lives; and the Canyon Club, built with a grant from the late Jim Dilley, to serve the needs of recovering alcoholics and addicts.

"This was the first grant they ever applied for," Fegraus said.

Laguna College of Art & Design was presented with a capital project grant to help purchase a van to transport students and their parents from the campus to off-site facilities.

Hortense Miller Gardens was awarded a $4,500 capital improvements grant, which Marsha Bode said will be used to make the kitchen of the house on the grounds usable and as close to the 1950s period of the house as possible.

Laguna Art Museum also received a $4,500 capital improvements grant.

"When you get to be 100, things break and we are almost 91," said museum board President Robert Hayden III. "We will improve the audio systems used for art education classes."

Staff offices at Laguna Playhouse will be relocated using the $4,500 capital project grant awarded the venerable Laguna cultural resource.

"We are entering our 90th season, and we are expanding to include other groups," Managing Director Karen Wood said.

A $4,500 technology grant was presented to SchoolPower to assist in raising its fundraising technology to maximum efficiency.

Robin Rounaghi, president of SchoolPower, said the organization was founded during an economic downturn in 1981.

"We are responding again to the economy," she said. "We have met our funding commitment of $250,000 to the Laguna Beach Unified School District."

Laguna Beach High School Scholarship Foundation also was awarded a $4,500 technology grant.

"Our foundation was founded 50 years ago," said Marge Earl, past president. "We gave $225,000 to 100 kids last year. This [grant] will help us automate the process, by putting applications and documents on line."

No Square Theatre was awarded a $2,500 grant to support upgrading performance and rehearsal space at the Veterans Memorial Building on Legion Street where the group leases space.

A $2,500 grant to Laguna Beach Live! will be used to support the Laguna Beach Music Festival's 2010-11 capacity building program.

"These funds will take us to the next level," said board member Judy Jelinik. The groups awarded were selected from more than twice that many applications for grants.

"If we had that many applications this year, we will have double that next year," Fegraus said.

One of the foundation goals is to seek new sources of funds, rather than further burden already generous philanthropists, Fegraus said.

"We want feedback from you about the process — how to make it better," Krinski said. "We know how to grow it — donations, donations, donations."

About 60 folks attended the luncheon. The guest list included Mayor Elizabeth Pearson, City Councilwoman Verna Rollinger, Assistant City Manager John Pietig, former Mayor Kathleen Blackburn, Laguna Beach Seniors Inc. Secretary Darrcy Loveland Bickel, Animal Crackers Pet Rescue board member Marlene Dantzer, LBHS Scholarship Foundation President Marsha Aronoff, Incoming Laguna College of Art & Design Student Body President Samantha Wilson and community volunteers Terry Smith, Angelica Krader and Mike Nozzarella.

Also: three of the foundation's founding foursome — Kote couldn't attend; trustees Dick Crum, Rick Balzer, Bob Dornin, Robert Gamez, Lyons Brown, Tarbox and Fegraus; Advisory Council members Greg McGillivray and Donnie Crevier; Communications and Outreach Committee member Susan Reese; Executive Directors Amanda J. Ferrari and Robert Sheldon; and Administrative Assistant Amanda Claypool.

For more information about the foundation, visit website

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