Our Laguna: Working together doing good works

Karyn Philippsen dug deep to understand why she was invited to be the keynote speaker on "synergy" at the annual luncheon hosted by the Guilds of the Segerstrom Center for the Arts — and came up with some answers.

"I was honored when conference Co-Chair Sandy Hovanesian asked if I would speak at this gathering," Philippsen told the audience. My next reaction was "Why me? What might I contribute?

"And what in the world is synergy? Why does everyone use it like an answer? When did it become so fashionable to use the word?"

Philippsen said the dictionary defines "synergy" as the combining of two or more agents or forces so their effect is greater than the sum of the parts, or the cooperative interaction among groups.

It comes from the Greek words "sunergi," which means cooperation, and "sunergos," defined as working together or combining action.

"The purpose of the luncheon was to celebrate the synergy between the guilds and the center to create programs for children and the community," said Hovanesian, a Laguna Beach resident also active in the Laguna Taxpayers Assn. "Members of the guilds for years could not believe they had been participants in these wonderful programs."

Phiippsen's message to the audience was that synergy is all around us. It is what a family is all about, she said, although not a word often used in that connection.

"When I was growing up we didn't say, 'Gee, they are synergetic family,'" she said.

Philippsen said she regrets that the same compatibility doesn't always carry over to the organizations one joins.

Philippsen said she plumbed her depths to dredge up what she had done, why she had done it, how she became who she is and how she arrived on the stage for the conference.

Her career has been wedded to the hospitality industry, most recently not to just one hotel but to all the members of the Laguna Beach Visitors Bureau, of which she is the board chair.

The bureau practically defines synergy. Members have joined together to make Laguna Beach a tourist destination, hoping to fill hotels, restaurants, retail shops and events in town, as well as benefit residents through bed and sales taxes.

Philippsen is also president of the Laguna Beach Sister Cities Assn., an all-volunteer group that encourages the collaborative exchange of cultural, educational and business activities with other cities.

Among those at the luncheon: school board member Betsy Jenkins, Nancy Beverage, Arts Commissioner Pat Kollenda, Fabiola Kinder, all members of the Sister Cities Assn., Seven Degrees' Dora Wexall, Healthy Girl Festival founder Maggie Hempen, Laguna Beach Community Foundation President Darcy Loveland and Casa Laguna General Manager Kathryn Mace and her husband, Henry.

Can you say synergy?

Just being alive is also a form of synergism, according to Philippsen..

"Nobody does it alone," she said. "That overused word 'synergy' reminds us that we need each other."

And few are more in need than at-risk children.

The guilds luncheon also featured a film on the Summer at the Center program, presented by Calina Mara, center vice president of education.

"Forty at-risk teens spend two weeks at the center learning to sing, dance and create a performance," Hovanesian said. "I've seen video before and every time I see it, I cry."

The next live performance is set for Aug. 3. Admission is free.

"Everyone should go," she said.

Hovanesian, who will chair the guild luncheon again next year, is the outgoing chair of the Debussey Chapter, one of the three chapters in the Laguna Guild, and the only one with Laguna Beach members.

Laguna resident Marge Gorum is the incoming chair of the Debussey Chapter. Friends of the Library President Martha Lydick is a patron, and Laguna Community Concert Band founder Carol Reynolds recently joined.

Hovanesian wants to see more locals join this diverse group of women who enjoy each other's company and have a wide variety of interests and the mutual goal of raising funds for the guilds.

The guilds are the oldest and largest of all the center support groups, a network committed to encouraging appreciation and enjoyment of the arts while raising awareness of and financial support for the center.

Debussey Chapter events in 2012 included a Super Bowl party in February, Fourth of July fireworks and annual party in Laguna, Debussy Goes to Polo in September, the annual holiday luncheon at Five Crowns in December, and a glass-blowing demonstration by two very talented artists.

That year a large group of them attended the Friends of the Library fundraiser, Ladies who Lunch — and Read.

Synergy.

For more information about the chapter, call (949) 376-5135.

Reed Fundraiser

A fundraiser will be held Thursday at Remarks to help with the extraordinary medical bills incurred by Darrin Reed, the popular, long-time administrative assistant to the Laguna Beach Unified School District superintendent.

"Darrin has been a beloved school district employee for more than a decade," said district board member Jenkins.

"We have all followed the progress of his battle against cancer and cheer every piece of good news. We hope to have him back soon."

Anne Johnson, an organizer of the fundraiser, said Reed is not only a wonderful asset to the school district but also a vital member of the community involved in many local organizations.

"The high regard in which he is held is reflected in the response to the fundraiser," Johnson said. "All the seats were sold out in just six days."

Reservations are still being taken in the event of cancellations. Donations are also welcome.

"All of us who have dealt with huge medical bills can empathize with Darrin," said Johnson, a cancer survivor.

To add a name to the reservation list or make a donation, call (949) 497-5334.

OUR LAGUNA is a regular feature of the Laguna Beach Coastline Pilot. Contributions are welcomed. Call (714) 966-4608 or email coastlinepilot@latimes.com with Attn. Barbara Diamond in the subject line.

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