As the reality of COVID-19 came crashing down on Orange County a year ago, Laguna Beach native Jason Garza and Ashley Moseley were among many residents who hustled to find purpose during the crisis.
“Usually what happens around town is they try to get over elaborate plans… but every single actionable project no matter small has a direct impact on someone’s live, month, or day,” Garza said.
Locals for Laguna Beach celebrated its first anniversary this month by marshaling local residents and businesses to give a host of goodies at a March 4 lunch for 50 members of the Boys & Girls Club of Laguna Beach. Donated items were also shared with the club’s branches at El Toro Park and Bluebird Canyon.
Over $1,000 dollars in basketballs, footballs, volleyballs, soccer balls, frisbees, and handballs were donated to the Club by Realtors Penny and Don Pattillo and clothing boutique 7 Roots.
Wahoo’s Fish Tacos founder Wing Lam donated meal gift certificates worth $10,000. Laguna Art Supply donated art supplies estimated at $1,000 worth of art supplies.
Ruby’s Diner Laguna Beach also delivered about 70 hot meals to Club members and gift certificates for another 200 burgers and shakes. Life Force Liquids giving away 100 bottles of lemonade and Buni’s Bakery offered a small gift basket of cookies to each child.
The donations were such meaningful gifts to the Club’s children, families, and team members, especially during this challenging time, Pamela Estes, CEO of Boys & Girls Club of Laguna Beach, wrote in an email.
“Locals for Laguna are an amazing example of the collective impact we can have when we all work together to help those most in need,” Estes wrote. “This very special group of individuals and businesses exemplify the compassion, humanity, and generosity that can truly make a difference in young people’s lives!”
Garza first connected with the club’s administration in August by coordinating the donation of a picnic table by Ganahl Lumber and Ron May of May Contractors Inc. to the Bluebird Canyon branch to accommodate a pivot to an outdoor-only operation, said Jennifer Costales, community engagement director for the Boys & Girls Club of Laguna Beach.
The community service efforts of Locals for Laguna Beach extend far beyond youth recreation.
Last month, Garza and Moseley learned Woods Cove was peppered with urine, trash, graffiti, and dog poop. He spent seven hours on Feb. 16 washing from streets—including in front of actress Bette Davis’ former California English Tudor home—and down the stairs at all four beach accesses.
“It was disgusting so we special ordered an electric-powered washer,” Garza said. “We had to strip down to our boxers and throw our clothes away.”
The electric-powered washed was funded by Jennifer Michele of Jenifer Michele Interiors, who attended Thurston Middle School as a child and grew up in Laguna Beach.
“I just feel like cleaning up the beach and the environment around it is really important,” Michele said.
Similarly, Garza power-washed the sidewalk and outdoor dining parklets in front of Sandpiper Lounge and Penguin Cafe. Both storefronts have been hubs for homeless people to sleep, defecate, and urinate, Garza.
Locals for Laguna Beach ran a fundraiser to help the Sandpiper Pipe hang on during the state’s shutdown of bars and indoor dining.
In November 2020, a sold-out event with a live show by World Anthem Band, featuring Jah Mex, was held in Mozambique’s parking lot, helping raise money for the embattled bar also called “the Dirty Bird.” The proceeds from admission, 25% of drink sales that night, and those from a custom T-shirt sale went to benefit the Sandpiper. The event had more than 200 attendees.
A suite of Locals for Laguna merchandise including T-shirts, sweatshirts, and hats have helped residents show pride in their hometown and support the local philanthropic endeavors. Garza said he plans to apply for 5019(c)3 status on behalf of the group.
As Garza tackles all of these projects, his mother is battling terminal cancer. In many ways, he finds motivation to keep going because of her example.
“She would always hammer into my brain that when everyone else is talking about things you can get it done if you don’t care who gets credit,” Garza said.