Our Laguna: Woman's Club hosts Tarnished Treasures Luncheon

Tarnished Treasures Luncheon is the Laguna Beach Woman's Club's gift to last-minute holiday shoppers and decorators.

Besides the lure of bargains, this year the luncheon also included a performance by the "Plaid Tidings" cast and musical director Gerald Sternbach.

Sternbach invited the audience to choose a carol and then a musical style in which he would perform it. "Little Drummer Boy" and "Mele Kalikimaka" were played in ragtime and three-quarter time.

Then, cast members David Brannen, Scott Dreier, Ciaran McCarthy and William Martinez sang songs from the show at the Laguna Playhouse. The performance included a sing-along, after which then they joined the luncheon guests for a bit of shopping and a bite to eat.

Laguna Community Concert Band founder Carol Reynolds played traditional carols while guests scooped up treasures before sitting down to lunch.

"I want to see every one leave here with purses empty and arms full," said event chair Kim Salter.

The fundraising luncheon, which was on hiatus last year, was warmly welcomed by club members and their guests.

"We're back," gloated club President Denise Ballester, who greeted the guests and introduced the club board: Vice President Susan Green, Treasurer Cheryl Kinsman, Past President Andrea Miller, members-at-large Elsa Brizzi and Gayle Waite, and membership chair Peggie Thomas, who sent regards from Tasmania. Realtor Dee Dee Westgaard-Pike handles rentals and Margaret Warder is the property manager.

Kinsman reported that the club is solvent, with $51,000 in the bank, no mortgage payments and a net of about $1,000 a month in rentals.

"We are using the money to revitalize the building to make it more appealing to community groups and individuals to use for events," Kinsman said.

Kinsman reported that rentals last year funded the installation of interior lights in the clubhouse on the corner of St. Anns Drive.

"Andrea and (former board member) Stephany Skenderian got the parking lots — front and back — repaved," Kinsman said. "The goals for 2013 are to get the restrooms made handicap-accessible and to modernize the kitchen. Anyone who enjoys reading financial statements can pick up one at Kinsman and Kinsman."

Kinsman said she was induced by Sande St. John to join the board in 2010.

"She called and said you need to be vice president and you don't have to do anything and then she hung up," Kinsman said.

"I was around when we almost lost the museum and when we almost lost the Festival of Arts," said Kinsman, a certified public accountant and former mayor. "Our building is vulnerable as well. It is an attractive piece of real estate. But it is a real asset to the community and we must take care not to lose it."

The board is interested in hearing any ideas on how the club can better serve the public using the building.

Founded in 1922, the club's mission is to provide and encourage a nurturing environment for women to develop and enrich social friendships, gain knowledge and provide services within the community in meaningful activities.

The first clubhouse was the "Old Ranch House," built in 1888 by George Rogers, who homesteaded a goodly portion of the downtown.

Subsequently the city proposed a land swap, the ranch house for the plot of land on St. Ann's Drive. Rumor has it that at one time the agreement read that if the city chopped down the pepper tree in on the Forest Avenue property, the deal was off. The agreement is said to have been modified, but nonetheless, the city has nurtured scions of the tree.

Since its founding, the club has tackled national and local issues such as endorsing a resolution by a veterans' group to adopt the "Star Spangled Banner" as the national anthem and offering the clubhouse as a meeting place for Girl Scouts to balance the Boy Scout organization, wrote Joan Gladstone in a history of the club.

Gladstone also credited the club with spearheading the creation of Bluebird Park and donating funds to build South Coast Community Hospital, now Mission Hospital Laguna Beach.

Members pledged $2,500 and raised money for the hospital by showing films and hosting art classes at the clubhouse. They also contributed volunteer hours and donated proceeds from Thrift Shop sales. The hospital opened July 1, 1959.

Through the decades, the club has continued to serve the community.

In 1966, the club created the Women's Resource Center to provide women with free information, referrals, legal services, job counseling and training, domestic abuse and substance abuse counseling, and children's services.

The Woman's Club continues to assist women, children and families in need.

In fact, an hour after Tarnished Treasures concluded, the club hosted its annual Christmas Holiday Party at which Laguna's less fortunate families chose from toys, clothing and other donated items.

However, women's issues always have been the club's first priority.

In 1995, members proudly donned purple T-shirts and caravaned to Santa Ana's Civic Center to celebrate the 75th anniversary of Women's Suffrage in the United States. Louise Myers, 99, and a club member for 40 years, participated in the event, according to Gladstone.

That was also the year the club established the Woman of the Year award to recognize women who voluntarily work to make life better for others.

St. John was the first recipient. Other recipients include Ann Christoph, Jean Raun, Ann Quilter, Marsha Bode and Anne Wood, the latter three at the luncheon.

Other guests included Mayor Pro Tem Elizabeth Pearson, Councilwoman Toni Iseman, City Clerk Lisette Chel, retired City Clerk Martha Anderson, Francine Scinto, Liza Stewart and former council members Jane Egly, Verna Rollinger and Kathleen Blackburn.

Also in attendance were Renae Hinchey, Laguna Beach County Water District general manager and former club president; Pauline Walpin, past president of Laguna Beach Seniors Inc., and Peggy Sue Grey, who donated two baskets of Eco Elegance Salon services and products for the silent auction.

OUR LAGUNA is a regular feature of the Laguna Beach Coastline Pilot. Contributions are welcomed. Call (714) 966-4618 or email coastlinepilot@latimes.com with Attn. Barbara Diamond in the subject line.

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