Our Laguna: Food, money donated to flood victims

Village Laguna's potluck dinner on Monday raised $605 to add to the $1,000 the group had already donated to help the victims of the Dec. 22 flood.

VL members were asked to bring donations of food, but there were more checks than canned goods, which was just as well. Laguna Relief and Resource Center Executive Director Donna Valenti said money is the most pressing need right now, although she estimated about $100,000 has been donated to date.

With the exception of Charlotte Masarik, who donated scalloped potatoes and a Ralph's gift card, virtually every cook put money in the pot at the potluck.

Among the donors: Darrylin Girvin, Italian sausage and a check; Barbara Metzgar, spinach casserole and a check; City Councilwoman Verna Rollinger, corn bread and a check. Well, you get the idea.

"I also made a cake, but it ended up in the trash," Rollinger said.

Other donors: Mayor Toni Iseman, Bonnie and Arnold Hano, Bill Ives, Madeleine Peterson, and Lynn Zukor, the center's newest board member.

Also: Jackie Gallagher, Jinger Wallace and Cathy Fry.

Bobby Fader showed up with chicken tetrazzini from Tivoli Too. Ed Merrilies donated his talent on the piano.

Flood survivors were honored guests at the dinner.

Maureen Nash-Taylor brought her daughter McKayla Brooks to the dinner.

"We had damage, but we were lucky," Nash-Taylor said. "Our neighbors had it much worse."

Teresa Dominguez lived at Big Bend with her son, Alex, a second grader at El Morro Elementary School.

"We lost everything," she said.

They are now living at the Riviera Hotel at least until the end of the month.

"Our landlord thinks we can move in upstairs while he finishes the downstairs, where we lived," Dominguez said.

Valerie Harrison has been back in her digs — you should excuse the expression — for eight days, and Fanny and Rosa Palacios have moved back into their damaged home, working with their landlord on repairs.

Sadly, Olga and Bridget Pineda don't know when they will be able to return.

Guests were welcomed by Village Laguna President Ginger Osborne, who introduced Valenti and Ann Quilter. Quilter updated the group on activities on behalf of the survivors.

"We have been busy getting information on 94 businesses and homes outside the downtown put into electronic form so we can keep track of them," Quilter said.

Quilter said that she is training people to work one-on-one with the survivors, but professional counseling services will also be available, as it was after the firestorm.

"Marion Jacobs said the Psych Center is up and running," Quilter said.

Other assistance reported by Quilter:

Donnie Crevier, boyhood buddy of Councilman Kelly Boyd and owner of Crevier BMW, is giving special deals to folks who lost their vehicles in the flood.

•The Community Clinic is working with the resource center either pro bono or at greatly reduced rates.

•Rotary has made a grant.

•Laguna Beach County Water District General Manager Renae Hinchey has directed her staff to compare canyon dwellers' bills last year to bills since the flood and if there is huge jump related to clean-up, the bills will be adjusted.

"If we miss anyone, call customer service at (949) 494-1041," said Assistant General Manager Christopher Regan said.

•Waste Management dynamo Michelle Clark has "begged, borrowed and stolen" trash containers so survivors could clean up their property at no expense.

•The center has Payless vouchers for shoes

Terry Rogers is organizing physical therapy for survivors on Feb. 19, with three chiropractors, an acupuncturist, a massage therapist and seated massages. Reservations required.

"This town knows the value of community," Quilter said.

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Caregiving

Laguna prides itself on its diversity and is divided by philosophical, economic political differences, but when disaster strikes, the city comes together. Three fundraisers are in the works to benefit victims.

Laguna musical legends Beth and Steve Wood, Jason Feddy, Nick "I" from Common Sense and Sasha Evans, accompanied by Doug Miller, are among the performers set for "Here Comes the Sun!," from 4 to 7 p.m. Sunday at the Artists Theatre, 625 Park Ave.

A silent auction will also be held and donations are being solicited. Donations may be dropped off at the Mail Stop, 1278 Glenneyre St. For more information, call (949) 233-8023. To volunteer, call Rick Conkey at (949) 573-8624.

Tickets may be purchased by calling (949) 734-5485. Admission is $20 for general seating, $50 for preferred seating, and $250 for the VIP "Flood Angel" Package, which includes admission to an artist reception from 3 to 4 p.m., catered by Mark's restaurant.

"Bree Burgess Rosen and Chris Quilter have revised their "Mame" concert to "Maimed A Benefit for the Wet and Muddy," Ann Quilter said.

The No Square Theatre production will star Burgess Rosen and Roxanna Ward on Feb. 4 and 5 at the Laguna Beach High School Artists Theatre. Joe Lauderdale is the director.

Tickets are $20 in advance, $25 at the door. A pre-show reception will be held at Legion Hall. For ticket information, visit http://www.NoSquare.com.

All proceeds will benefit the resource center's Artists Flood Relief Fund.

"Artists in Laguna Canyon have suffered catastrophic losses," Quilter said. "The Dulcimer maker just up and moved to Arkansas.

Thirdly, the Interfaith Council will sponsor a Unified Day of Giving in February for all churches and synagogues in Laguna.

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Looking to the future

The night after the potluck, survivors were invited to meet at the Susi Q to hear about insurance and legal issues they might face.

It didn't bring a lot of smiles.

Long-time Laguna Beach insurance broker John Campbell talked about the federal flood insurance program, which very few people have, and gave advice on how to proceed with claims.

Survivors who have homeowners insurance were advised to contact the insurers to determine what, if any, benefits might be forthcoming.

Some of the survivors said their insurance companies had surveyed the damage but were laggardly in responding to questions about benefits. Others said they had already been denied.

One survivor said she was told that insurance companies train their people to find ways to deny claims.

Campbell said if claims are denied or benefits seem parsimonious, survivors should appeal, perhaps with the assistance of the agents who sold them the policy or an attorney.

Laguna Beach attorney Larry Nokes also spoke. He said issues also could arise between landlords and tenants — Is a lease valid if a tenant cannot live in the rental? If rent is not paid while out of the rental, can the landlord terminate the lease? Is the landlord obligated to pay the rent at another site while the tenant's quarters are uninhabitable?

These issues can often be resolved by mediation, Nokes said, and he offered his offices and service free to the survivors.

The Citizens Advisory Council on Disaster Preparedness will meet at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Community Center, 380 Third St., to discuss preparations for emergencies, encourage education, promote discussion and recruit volunteers.

Ed Sauls started the group, which is not an official city committee, about five years ago, which is chaired at his request by David Mitchell.

"My goal has been to help grow awareness, work with the city and develop a floodwatch group — modeled after the Red Flag Fire Patrol — of which I am also a member," Mitchell said.

Participants include Quilter and Ann Richardson.

The public is invited.

OUR LAGUNA is a regular feature of the Laguna Beach Coastline Pilot. Contributions are welcomed. Write to Barbara Diamond, P.O. Box 248, Laguna Beach, 92652; call (949) 380-4321 or e-mail coastlinepilot@latimes.com.

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