By Robin Pierson, Special to the Independent
What started as one woman’s dream to create a high-end, affordably priced shopping extravaganza to raise money to help alleviate homelessness, abuse and hunger, has turned into a community-wide effort that will come to fruition Saturday, May 18 at the Neighborhood Congregational Church.
Thanks to the generosity of local shop owners and residents, along with hours of work put in by a devoted crew of volunteers, this year’s Boutique Benefit is sizing up to be a bonanza for both shoppers and the non-profits slated to receive the proceeds.
The one-day opportunity to shop for a cause will be held from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the church, 340 St. Ann’s Dr. Admission is $4.
For the second year in a row, there will be a Friday presale, May 17, from 5-8 p.m. For $40 early bird fashionistas – and those who simply want to socialize for a purpose – will be able to eat and drink treats provided by six of Laguna’s favorite eateries and then shop NCC’s Bridge Hall, which will have been transformed into an upscale boutique for two hours of leisurely bargain bagging. Tickets for the presale event can be purchased online at boutiquebenefit.eventbrite.com.
Now in its seventh year, Evonne Kane originally brought the Boutique Benefit into being after helping with a Christmas dinner for the homeless at the Presbyterian Church in 2006.
“My heart was touched by the humanity of everyone present,” she said. Wanting to continue to be “a drop in the sea of compassion,” Kane volunteered to organize the Laguna Resource Center’s clothing room. Realizing that clothing is fundamental to all, and that money follows fashion, “The idea of a boutique type fundraiser came to me.
“It seemed like a win-win for everyone,” said Kane, who has lived in Laguna for more than 20 years and has her own acupuncture practice. “Closets would be cleaned, tax deductions given, clothes would be recycled and shoppers would have the satisfaction of knowing their purchases were helping others.”
To date, the boutique has raised $85,000 to help people in need both locally and abroad. The major recipient has been the Laguna Food Pantry, formerly the Resource Center.
“Evonne is our biggest booster financially and emotionally,” said chairman Andy Siegenfeld. Funds garnered from the boutique have enabled the non-profit to help alleviate food shortages for thousands of individuals and families struggling economically. This year Siegenfeld estimates that over 20,000 people will sign up to receive groceries from the all-volunteer center on Laguna Canyon Road.
The boutique is no garage sale. A loyal and growing contingent of local shop owners (40 this year) donates quality apparel, handbags and jewelry to the cause and then the items are priced at a fraction of their original retail value.
“Evonne gets extraordinary clothing,” said City Council member Toni Iseman, who for the past several years has both worked and shopped the benefit. “I’ve gotten things I wouldn’t even try on at a store because they’re so expensive and you can get them for $10.”
Kane, Iseman said, “has never lost her focus and she has a way of getting people to open their hearts.”
This year, Elle H, formerly a Laguna shop that has been selling its contemporary women’s clothing online, is liquidating the company and donating its remaining stock. “I have probably six to eight rolling racks right now in my garage,” said owner Linda Hahn, who also volunteered this year help organize the thousand of items that fill three large temporary storage units.
Tootsies, located in The Old Pottery Place shopping center and a consistent contributor to the boutique, will be giving about 100 pairs of shoes, said owner Nini Dake. There will also be lingerie from I C London, scarves from Tibet Handicrafts and children’s clothing from Hillary and Little Free bird,
apparel and fabric from Lala along with a huge selection of men’s dress shirts, jackets and over 100 new surf shirts.
According to Kane there is more inventory this year than ever before, with something for every age, style, size and budget.
Besides the shops, a dedicated contingent scours their home closets cherry picking the prizes and saving them for the boutique.
Though she hated to, Patricia Twitty reluctantly gave Kane the peacock in her own closet, a hand-beaded skirt won at an art auction in Venice that never fit right. Shortly after the benefit, a friend of Twitty’s waltzed into a party “looking like a dream” and wearing the one-of-a-kind skirt. “Great friends, great taste in clothes, you never know what treasures you might find there,” Twitty said.
Besides the Laguna Food Pantry this year’s proceeds will go to Laguna Beach’s Friendship Shelter, which since 1987 has helped homeless adults achieve self-sufficiency by providing a stable living environment, life skills, and counseling. The Friendship Shelter also manages the homeless sleeping facility on Laguna Canyon Road.
Impact Giving, a women’s collective giving group, started locally, that annually gives grants to both domestic and international charities chosen by its members, will also receive funding.
And Women for Women International, which provides women survivors of war in eight countries resources to move from crisis and poverty to stability and self-sufficiency, will again be a beneficiary.
Pictures of some of the goodies awaiting shoppers are posted on the Boutique Benefit’s Facebook page.
Local resident Robin Pierson writes about topics she’s engaged in.