A number of individuals, organizations and other community members have come together to revamp the Boys & Girls Club of Laguna Beach’s Laguna Canyon Enrichment Center.
By Tanya A. Yacina
As with any great project, it can take a village to bring it all together. In this case, that village includes residents, businesses and nonprofits in Laguna Beach who are pooling their resources to assist the Boys & Girls Club of Laguna Beach in renovating the Laguna Canyon Enrichment Center.
Jason Garza, founder of Locals for Laguna Beach, a group started during the pandemic to support businesses and special projects in town, noted the need for upgrades when he toured the facility in August. He began talking to various members of the community and all it took was a conversation to motivate individuals and groups alike to jump on board and help move the project forward.
“As more and more people … committed to the project, it became more real,” Garza says. “The community is coming together to help on many different levels, … [with] donations of art and building materials, and rallying to bring it back around to the kids.”
Michelle Highberg, chief relationship officer for Boys & Girls Club of Laguna Beach, says that, although the project is mostly still in the planning stages and no construction has yet begun, some interior upgrades, including new furniture and artwork, have been added. The group anticipates the biggest undertakings in the renovation project to be the new Tween Loft, the Dream Play Yard and several painting/mural projects, all expected to be completed by spring 2022.
“The Boys & Girls Club is continually assessing and addressing both the academic and socio-emotional deficits our children have faced the past 18 months,” Highberg says. “Part of the response is to create innovative spaces for both learning and wellness. Through Jason’s network, we have met some wonderful individuals, artists, and movers and shakers who get things done in Laguna Beach.”
In addition to the Tween Loft and Dream Play Yard, upgrades will include new paint, lighting, computers, flat-screen televisions and carpeting. A grand piano has been donated while foosball and pingpong tables will find new homes in the club. Raised planters and a butterfly garden are also in the plans, plus the Laguna Ocean Foundation is helping create an artificial tide pool; a public skate park will be built on the property as well.
“This is an ongoing project—one that only keeps getting bigger and bigger,” Garza says. “Once this got started, it set off a chain of events, and once it really gets going, it should only take a few months to complete.”
Individuals who would like to volunteer their time to the project may contact Stephanie Schmitz, the center’s community engagement director, at firstname.lastname@example.org. Boys & Girls Club of Laguna Beach also invites the community to help in the efforts with in-kind donations or partnerships.
A November fundraiser called Time to Play will raise money for the upgrade projects. At the event, for each $1,000 donation, guests may attend two events at Hotel Laguna and have naming rights on the club’s Thank You for Lending a Hand wall, complete with their handprint.
Take a look behind the scenes at some of the most prominent groups and individuals that are helping turn this dream into a reality.
Leading the Locals
When it comes to this project, most notable of all is Jason Garza, who has already been making strides in the community since the COVID-19 pandemic started with his nonprofit, Locals for Laguna Beach. Now that he has turned his sights on the Boys & Girls Club of Laguna Beach, he and his army of locals have turned ideas for small upgrades into an unparalleled renovation with elements that local kids could only dream of. Garza has spearheaded efforts, working with the club and all of his contacts to set plans in motion, curating artists, designers, donors, volunteers, businesses and nonprofits to collaborate.
Contributing to Growth
In addition to networking and design, a number of local organizations have contributed greatly to the rejuvenation of the club. One major partner is the South Laguna Community Garden Park, which has been involved with Boys & Girls Club of Laguna Beach for a while and is dedicated to teaching the transformational joys of gardening, horticulture and beautification of natural resources. Within this community project, the garden park members will introduce everything from a new greenhouse to raised gardening beds and a space with native plants where butterflies can thrive—and, subsequently, children can learn about their life cycles.
Design by Deana
Another important player in the revamp is Deana Duffek of Duffek Design. In an effort to “design with purpose,” she has taken the lead on the design of the Tween Loft, where youth between the ages of 11 and 13 hang out at the club. Her concept-driven plans offer spaces for everything from studying to socializing with integrative opportunities to consider mindfulness and self-care. Without her thoughtful ideas and purposeful design, the project would not be the same.