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Laguna Beach

 Volume 12, Issue 44  |  June 2, 2020

Laguna COVID-19 Relief Fund raises over $370,000 from local donations, more needed

The Laguna COVID-19 Relief Fund, launched in late April by a group of local business owners and community volunteers focused on creating instant financial relief for Laguna Beach residents, has raised upwards of $370,000 to distribute to locals in need. 

The fund opened April 24 in collaboration with the Boys & Girls Club of Laguna Beach and the Laguna Beach Community Foundation, which is making money available to individuals for rent, food, medical bills, and other basic needs with an emphasis on those in the restaurant, hospitality, retail, arts, and personal services industries.

Emergency assistance mini-grants raised from over 70 donors in the form of VISA gift cards of up to $1,000 will have been awarded to around 370 people by the end of the week, according to fund co-chair and local resident Bob Mister, who said applicants range from restaurant workers to hotel personnel, dog walkers to day laborers, to artists. 

“In early April, I was sitting around wondering what I could do to help the restaurant and personal service and hotel workers and retail clerks who have been laid off. Many of them are not eligible for government aid, especially part-time workers, and they need something today,” said Mister. “And Laguna Beach artists have been particularly hard hit, as many summer art festivals have been canceled or delayed,” he said. “Some of these festival artists have been there for decades and depend on summer trade for their livelihood for the entire year.”

Artists Robert and Marita Holton, Laguna Beach residents who depend on sales and marketing from the Sawdust Festival for 50 percent of their yearly income, are still hoping the festival will be rescheduled. Robert, who has been exhibiting his pop art at the Sawdust for six years, and his wife, Marita, who has been showing her crowns and tiaras for three years and has had most of her wedding business canceled due to the pandemic, was relieved when he saw a sign on the Boys & Girls Club of Laguna Beach publicizing the fund. “I’ve never asked for assistance before, and that fund was a godsend. It’s so great that the local community rallied together to help mankind.” 

Jennifer Proppe Ray, a longtime Laguna Beach resident and mother of two, applied for a relief grant to help her family with groceries and rent after her home-based wedding flower business grinded to a halt due to COVID-19. Her once thriving business, which she ran with her husband, has experienced postponements through at least August. She immediately applied after hearing about the relief fund. “It was super convenient, and I was approved in a couple of days. At this point anything helps,” Ray said. “It’s been a roller coaster and this type of support from the community keeps you going.”

One of the first recipients of a grant was Laguna Beach resident Roberto Gutierrez, a father of two who has been working at BJs Pizza in Laguna Beach for 16 years as a server. When the pandemic hit, his hours were reduced to two days a week, three hours a day. “I was one of the lucky ones, because I’ve been there for so long. At least I was able to keep my insurance,” he said. But bills were piling up and he was starting to panic. Then he saw a story about the fund in a local newspaper and applied immediately. “I got the application and sent it in the same day, hoping for the best. I was surprised to get a call back a few days later telling me I’ve been approved for the grant. I was so excited. You know that feeling when a big wave (of relief) lifts off the body? This is a great town to live in. I really appreciate what the community has done. I have friends who have received help as well. I hope they realize how grateful we are.”

As soon as Mister recognized the scope of the crisis, he knew he would need assistance to start raising funds, so he contacted Laguna Beach resident Ed Sauls, who had chaired a fire relief fund in 1993 when 350 homes in Laguna Beach were lost. As the COVID-19 Relief Fund co-chairs, the two men then contacted Tom Davis, a local attorney and community activist who is president and chair of the Laguna Beach Community Foundation (which has been turned over to the Orange County Community Foundation). Davis was able to quickly integrate the foundation’s 501(c)(3) status to get the new relief fund approved. From there, a community committee was formed to renew applications and approve grants for those most affected.

“The response from our community has been overwhelming, with over $370,000 raised so far from over 75 donations,” said Mister. “More donations are needed, as we’ve had over 600 applications.”

A dedicated review committee composed of the LBCF COVID-19 fund advisors and the community committee members is reviewing applications and will grant support to those most affected and in need (subject to availability of funds).

Applications for a Laguna COVID-19 Relief Fund Emergency Assistance Mini-Grant may be requested by email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or picked up at the Boys & Girls Club at 1085 Laguna Canyon Rd (at the front door).

To donate, make checks payable to: LBCF Laguna COVID-19 Relief Fund, 580 Broadway St, Suite 204, Laguna Beach, CA, 92651.

Applications and donations are also accessible online at


Shaena Stabler is the Owner, Publisher & Editor.

Dianne Russell is our Associate Editor & Writer.

Michael Sterling is our Webmaster & Designer.

Mary Hurlbut is our Chief Photographer.

Alexis Amaradio, Barbara Diamond, Dennis McTighe, Diane Armitage, Marrie Stone, Maggi Henrikson, Samantha Washer, and Suzie Harrison are our writers and/or columnists. Scott Brashier is our photographer.

Stacia Stabler is our Social Media Manager & Writer.

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