renaissance

Endeavors of the Heart

The Small But Mighty Exchange Club

By Marion Jacobs And Lee Winocur Field

If preventing child abuse, enjoying a friendly, effective group of Lagunans dedicated to community service, and hearing lunch presentations on a wide array of topics interest you, consider joining the Laguna Beach Exchange Club.

The national service organization’s 700 clubs and 22,000 members celebrated its 100th anniversary in March. The four-pronged mission of all clubs is to promote Americanism, child abuse prevention, community service and youth programs.

The local club was founded in 1962. Its 24 members meet three times a month for lunch at the Watermarc restaurant to plan programs, hear presentations, (most recently from local poet and thespian John Gardiner), and enjoy each other’s company, says three-time president and current treasurer Katy Moss. She adds with pleasure, “The Laguna Club petitioned national to allow women members over 20 years ago. That’s noteworthy.”

Financial constraints have also reshaped the club in recent years. As Moss explained, “Ten to 15 years ago, we had good corporate sponsorship for our fundraisers. That dried up after stock market crashes in 2002 and 2003 and, with the addition of a vibrant performing arts community,  many more nonprofit groups in Laguna Beach are vying for donations and sponsorships. We have gone from being a check writing group to more of a grassroots, hands-on service organization relying on smaller donations and our members to financially support our endeavors. Annual donations now amount to about $5,000 of which 100 percent is given away.”

Added the group’s president, Connie Burlin: “We are currently having a food drive for South County Outreach, where in the past we could have sent a healthy donation of money. Our pancake breakfasts in Heisler Park on Memorial Day and Labor Day are fundraisers, but at $5 per person, we aren’t getting wealthy. They’re nice inexpensive family oriented community gatherings.”

More than half of the club’s fundraising, $3,500, is directed to organizations involved with child abuse prevention. These include Orange’s Child Abuse Prevention Centers; Santa Ana’s Turning Point Center for Families; Coastal Center for Families, a partner of Laguna’s Boys and Girls Club; and Laguna’s CSP Youth Shelter.

Other activities include awarding three scholarships of $500 each to Laguna Beach High School students, supporting the Woman’s Club’s Christmas and back to school events for low income families, adopting a family at holiday time, sponsoring the police awards, supporting a children’s hospital in Cambodia, honoring stand-out givers through a Book of Golden Deeds program, distributing hundreds of American flags at every Patriot’s Day Parade, and special outreach efforts such as donating to the Laguna Resource Centers and to families of firefighters killed on the battle lines.

As part of its service, the club also founded the Laguna Beach Film Festival, which later became the Laguna Film Society, a council of the Laguna Art Museum.  Jim Rue, the club’s webmaster, notes that both the film group and the Exchange Club regularly support environmental causes. Summing it all up he says, “We at the Exchange Club are small but mighty. It’s a good, user-friendly, easy-going group.”

The Laguna Beach Exchange Club welcomes everyone to its meetings and is eager to recruit new members of all ages. For more information, visit their website at: www.lagunabeachexchangeclub.org or contact Katy Moss at 494-0703.

Dr. Lee Winocur Field is a coordinator of the LB Community Alliance and an adjunct professor at National University and Dr. Marion Jacobs is a practicing psychologist in Laguna Beach and an adjunct professor at UCLA. (about 675 words)

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