Assistance League of Laguna Beach endeavors to help the masses.
By Tanya A. Yacina
As an all-volunteer nonprofit, the Assistance League of Laguna Beach focuses on enhancing the local community and transforming lives through its philanthropic programs. Originally formed in 1952 by 14 women who called themselves Las Amigas, the group opened the Turnabout Thrift Shop here in town to fund their humanitarian activities. Ten years later, it became the 29th National Assistance League chapter and was renamed to its current moniker. Today, there are 120 chapters nationwide claiming nearly 22,000 members.
“Each Assistance League chapter is charged with serving the unique needs and challenges of the local community. Funds generated by or donated to the chapter enable it to address identified local needs, and member volunteers define and carry out services that fit these needs,” says Kathy Pawluk, president of the local chapter. “The national organization provides guidance to assure chapters function to the best standards of nonprofit governance.”
Pawluk says that, between the group’s roughly 160 volunteers and various philanthropic programs, ALLB works to make Laguna and its surrounding communities better places to live and work. Through hands-on involvement, the volunteers dedicate themselves to ongoing support and a long-term presence in the community.
“Assistance League of Laguna Beach volunteers staff … [our] community Thrift Shop that offers residents and visitors a wide range of slight[ly]-used, quality goods at reasonable prices,” Pawluk says, noting that the funds help support 15 different charitable initiatives. “… Through philanthropic programs, … [ALLB] volunteers are committed to meeting the needs of individuals in Laguna Beach and surrounding communities with a focus on senior citizens, food insecure families, schoolchildren and developmentally delayed babies.”
Over the years, the local chapter’s programming has expanded, now held at local pillars within the community. The nonprofit donates funds to Laguna Playhouse so that underserved children can attend theatrical productions while also hosting enrichment activities—such as art projects and culinary sessions—at Waymakers Youth Shelter. Still other initiatives include knitting/crocheting hats for cancer patients, granting scholarships to graduating high school seniors and offering support for military families.
Read on to discover how some of the Assistance League’s most important programs take shape.
Proceeds from the Assistance League of Laguna Beach’s Thrift Shop are the main source of funding for the group’s 15 community programs.
Supplies for Students
Each year, before children head back to school in August, the Assistance League of Laguna Beach partners with various other chapters for a two-day event at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton as part of its Chapters for Children program. Here, “personal shoppers” escort children from military families to different stations—each hosted by a different league—to get them ready for their classes. “This year, 501 children were outfitted for school,” notes Kathy Pawluk, president of the local ALLB chapter, adding that the nonprofit provided vouchers for shoes while other groups offered everything from shirts and socks to hygiene kits. In addition, ALLB provides backpacks filled with school supplies and apparel to kids in the preschool program at the Boys & Girls Club of Laguna Beach through its Preschool Readiness effort.
It’s been over 45 years since the Assistance League of Laguna Beach launched its Early Intervention Program, an initiative that allows occupational and physical therapists, behavioral specialists and developmental teachers to come together and present parents with a proactive approach on how to care for, exercise and play with babies experiencing developmental delays. The group recognized the need for this type of program early on, and has since educated families on advancing infants’ fine, sensory and gross motor skills; emotional behaviors; eating techniques and more. “Assistance League of Laguna Beach provides the facility and the therapy at no cost to families. The program enables families to get an early start toward optimal development for their baby,” Pawluk says.
Another campaign, called Supporting Seniors, is held in tandem with Lifelong Laguna, an advocacy group run by Laguna Beach Seniors out of the Laguna Beach Community & Susi Q Senior Center, to enable aging locals to continue living happily in their own residences. Through the program, ALLB provides older adults with important technology, including Amazon Echo Dots and Apple iPads, to facilitate communication and allow them to keep up with health appointments and other events while also enjoying access to the web for information. “[ALLB] … has also provided funding to support the Home Modification Assessment program that identifies … [alterations] for a senior’s home that, if made, will enable him or her to continue living [there] safely,” Pawluk adds.