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Relief Efforts Take Shape

Wanted:  Strong Bodies, Trucks and a Storage Shed
By Rita Robinson | LB Indy
Skilled volunteers as well as specific items are needed to help flood survivors in Laguna Canyon, Donna Valenti, new executive director of the Laguna Relief and Resource Coalition, announced at the City Council meeting Tuesday night.
“What we need right now along with money, we need a lot of money, is a storage shed,” Valenti said.  “We’re trying to coordinate people who have furniture and other household items with the people who are going to need them.”  She said donated household items will be kept in a storage space preferably in town until displaced canyon residents are ready to move back into their homes.
Valenti, who has been raising funds as a volunteer for the Resource Center over the last three years, said she and Ann Quilter are making two-fisted phone calls to connect residents affected by the deluge with available emergency services. The torrential cloudburst that occurred around 3 a.m. on Dec. 22, 2010, flooded Laguna Canyon and downtown, totaling an estimated $10 million in damages to homes and businesses.
“We need trucks, strong bodies and people willing to scrub down houses on the inside,” added Quilter, explaining that trucks are needed to help transport big items.
Quilter, a canyon resident who lost her home during the last city flood in February 1998, has taken on the task of disaster-relief coordinator for the Resource Center at 20652 Laguna Canyon Road.
“Approximately 18 families have been displaced, some permanently,” Quilter told council members.  “It’s a fairly frenetic situation. To the best of our knowledge, we have 50 active cases and we have about 31 structures that have been damaged. Some of them may be totaled; some of the damage is fairly severe.”
The Resource Center has coordinated relief efforts with the Assistance League.   The nonprofit’s Turn-About Thrift Store, 526 Glenneyre Street, will receive clothing donations and distribute them to flood survivors who have contacted the Resource Center.
“If you need help, we need to know who you are,” said Valenti, adding that the center can only help people who are in its system. “So please call,” she said.
Mayor Pro Tem Elizabeth Pearson requested that all monetary tax-deductible contributions be made by check payable to LRRC Flood 2010 and mailed to P.O. Box 4481, Laguna Beach, CA 92652.  Email appeals to friends bring results, said Quilter, such as the $10,000 donated by Holly and David Wilson of Laguna Beach.
Quilter, a self-described expert on reconstructing after floods, knows how it feels to literally get swept away.  She was buried in a raging river of mud as it busted through windows and walls of her hillside home.  One of the neighbors Quilter and her husband Charlie had given refuge to earlier, Glenn Flook, 25, died in the catastrophe.
The couple’s rebuilt canyon home weathered the Christmas flood unscathed.
“It has been a great privilege to support this incredible community that pulled me up by the bootstraps, loved me, took care of me, helped clothe me and gave me a place to put my things. Because of the love of this community, I stand healed.  No post-traumatic stress,” said Quilter.
Mayor Toni Iseman said artists who lost studios and homes in the canyon need money and temporary worksites.
Valenti said she can be reached at 949-212.9155.  Quilter can be reached at 494-4180 or 433-9801.

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