Club to celebrate 100th anniversary on Nov. 11
By Tasmin McGill, Guest Contributor
When Kathleen “Kitty” Malcolm moved to Laguna Beach nearly ten years ago, she didn’t know what to expect. The plan was for her and her husband to stay in Laguna for three months as a fresh start. By then, Malcolm had been retired for a few years, and her kids were no longer living at home. She had no idea what the next chapter in her life would be like.
But within two months of living in Laguna, she knew the town was where they needed to be.
Completely new to the community, Malcolm did not know anyone. However, that would change after buying the house of a Laguna Beach Council Member. This would lead Malcolm to not only join but ultimately preside over one of the most unique nonprofits in Laguna Beach.
Established on Jan. 20, 1922, the Woman’s Club was founded before the area was even known as Laguna Beach. Located at the “Old Ranch House” on Forest Avenue, the Club became involved in various organizations, committees, and causes. The members even took part in the first planning meeting for what would become the city of Laguna.
Throughout the years, the Club would advocate for “The Star Spangled Banner” to become the National Anthem. The clubhouse was even a meeting spot for Girls Scouts. They helped fund the construction of the Mission Hospital through fundraising efforts from their Thrift Store and backed the build of the playground at Bluebird Park.
Since its founding, the Woman’s Club of Laguna Beach has helped hundreds of organizations locally and throughout Orange County. And for Malcolm, that is what drew her in.
Now reaching its 100-year anniversary, the Woman’s Club has continued to be involved in organizations around the town and extends towards the entire County when necessary. During the holiday season, the Club purchases gifts for different organizations in town, including the Fire Department’s “Spark of Love” Campaign and Waymakers.
The Woman’s Club would ultimately give up its original space on Forest Avenue to City Hall and move just minutes away to 286 St. Anne’s Drive. It is where the organization remains today, and where some of the biggest contributions to the City take place. Their annual holiday, woman of the year, and outgoing mayor luncheons are just some of the events at 286 St. Anne’s Drive.
“One will be our holiday luncheon which is coming up on Dec. 9,” Malcolm said. “This is a big deal because it is the only time we fundraise. We have really just started fundraising in the last couple of years. All that fundraising that we do goes to our community outreach program, which has grown significantly because of it.”
Through fundraising and working with the Laguna Beach Unified School District, the Woman’s Club ‘adopted’ more than 35 kids for the holiday season. During the town’s Hospitality Night, children have the opportunity to create wish lists at Santa’s House downtown. Sande St. John, who was the first Woman’s Club Woman of the Year and runs Santa’s House takes the lists and disperses them to different organizations in the hopes of fulfilling them.
“We have been able to do it for the past five years because we are raising money at our holiday luncheon. Our members and their guests are giving back to the Club so that we can give back to the City,” Malcolm said.
The fundraising luncheons have also helped send six children to summer camps through Laguna Beach’s Parks and Recreation and three kids to the Marine Mammals Camp Pinniped summer program.
The Woman’s Club is not just a place to raise luncheons; it is also a thriving rental venue.
A venue for occasions like wedding ceremonies, receptions and memorial services, the revenue brought in has helped make renovating the clubhouse possible.
Since hiring their new property manager Laura Bazerman, the business side of the Club is taking care of the upkeep, the nonprofit side is what keeps the Woman’s Club involved and giving back to the Laguna Beach community.
“We’ve done it all through operating income without having to raise money, get a loan or do other things that cost quite a bit of money. Our rental income really goes to maintaining the building, the grounds and all the property,” Malcolm said. “There are two very different sides to the Woman’s Club, and not many nonprofits can say that here.”
That allows the Club to focus on helping the Laguna Beach community and growing as a nonprofit and social club. It is composed of a diverse group of women at different stages in life. Whether their children are transitioning to high school or looking for other connections, the Woman’s Club is a destination for many. Malcolm enjoys reviewing each application submitted to learn more about the applicant, their interests and how they plan to participate. And each acceptance is followed by a handwritten welcome letter.
“We’ve had members who really believe that it is their second home. We are very committed to it. We have a purpose. I think woman’s clubs are not for everybody, and if you were to ask me before I left Pennsylvania, nobody would have ever thought I would be running a woman’s Club,” Malcolm said. “Like, ‘what? That’s not you, Kitty, but it became me because it gave me a purpose. The mission of this Club touched me. The mission is to reach out to help children in need and women in transition.”
The Woman’s Club will celebrate its 100th anniversary with a speakeasy-themed soiree on Nov. 11 from 5 to 8 p.m. at 286 St. Ann’s Drive, Laguna Beach. More information is available on the Club’s website: www.wclb.org/.View Our User Comment Policy
Congratulations and well done, Woman’s Club! However, a cautionary note.
The Club runs the risk of alienating its members by breaching the boundary between paying renters of its space and its own membership. An example: in May, a local political club rented the space to screen an anti-public schools, anti-CRT film called “Whose Children Are They?” Ahead of the event, a promotional email was sent to all Woman’s Club members urging them to buy tickets and attend this film to be educated about the evils threatening to take over our public schools, which many community-oriented folks rightly found pretty offensive.
Even the Laguna Beach Woman’s Club, a rare last vestige of apolitical unity, has been poisoned by extremist views that damage our community’s cohesion. It used to be a sweet little circle where women put aside political beliefs and worked together to better the lives of their neighbors. How sad for our town.