Virus Relief Fund Created by Local Business Owners and Volunteers

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Laguna Beach resident Bob Mister was the inspiration for the local COVID-19 relief fund launched April 24. Courtesy of Stephanie Mister

Justine Amodeo, Special to the Independent

A group of local business owners and community volunteers focused on creating instant financial relief for Laguna Beach residents have launched a COVID-19 relief fund to award emergency assistance mini-grants of up to $1,000 to those under severe economic pressure.

Laguna Beach local Bob Mister inspired the fund and was also involved in creating a Fire Relief Fund during the devastating fires that ripped through town in 1993. The fund will open today, April 24, and was created in collaboration with the Boys & Girls Club of Laguna Beach and the Laguna Beach Community Foundation. It will make money available to individuals for rent, food, medical bills and other basic needs with an emphasis on those in the restaurant, hospitality, retail, and personal services industries.

“Two weeks ago, I was sitting around wondering what I could do to help the restaurants and personal service and hotel workers and retail clerks who have been laid off,” Mister said. “Many of them are not eligible for government aid, especially part-time workers, and they need something today.

In 1993, Mister was involved in a coalition with Laguna Beach resident Ed Sauls to aid families who had lost their homes in the fires. Once again Mister collaborated with Sauls on starting a COVID-19 fund. Agreeing to be the COVID-19 Relief Fund co-chairs, the duo then contacted local attorney Tom Davis, president and chair of the Laguna Beach Community Foundation, who was able to quickly integrate the foundation’s 501c3 status to get the new relief fund approved.

“That was a godsend,” Mister said. “We couldn’t wait three months for approval so that is the vehicle we are using.”

Mister then sprang into action, calling some of his generous friends and acquaintances, and has managed so far to raise about $100,000. Jon Moore and Ed Hathaway among the fund’s advisors.

As of April 20, The Laguna Beach Community Foundation COVID-19 Community Committee also includes attorney Nicole Anderson, Laguna Food Pantry executive director Anne Belyea, 2020 citizen of the year Sande St. John, restaurant owner Cary Redfearn, Diane Armitage, Laguna Presbyterian Church John Leonti, Mark Christy, Kathleen Abel, filmmaker Meghan MacGillivray Weil, investment advisor Greg Mech, and investment advisor Jim Fletcher.

“We are hoping to raise between $200,000 and $400,000 before it’s done,” Mister said. “Tom has set up the Boys & Girls Club to accept applications and give out gift cards to people who qualify.”

A dedicated review committee composed of the LBCF COVID-19 fund advisors and the community committee members will review applications and will grant support to those most affected and in need (subject to availability of funds).

“We don’t know what the demand is going to be, but my sense is it will be substantial,” Mister said. “We hope to get the information, approve it and get money into the hands of people who need it the next day.”

Mister added that the fund advisors are hoping to get donations from individuals and some of the larger foundations.

Applications for a Laguna Covid-19 Relief Fund Emergency Assistance Mini-Grant may be obtained starting April 24 as follows:

Request by email at [email protected], request by mail to Tom Davis at 580 Broadway, Suite 204, Laguna Beach, CA, 92651 or pick up an application at the Boys & Girls Club, 1085 Laguna Canyon Rd.

To donate, make checks payable to: LBCF Laguna COVID-19 Relief Fund, 580 Broadway, Suite 204, Laguna Beach, CA, 92651, call Bob Mister at 949-637-3357 or for wire transfer instructions, contact [email protected]

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