10 Minutes With … Tim Hartshorn

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The South County Crosscultural Council’s new executive director talks about expanding resources for local day laborers, some of his favorite places in Laguna and more.

By Sharon Stello

 

In college, Tim Hartshorn began conducting research on the experiences of migrant workers, which not only helped him earn a Ph.D. from UC Irvine, but also put him on the path to his new job as executive director of the South County Crosscultural Council, which runs the Day Worker Center in Laguna Canyon and offers English as a second language classes.

Originally from Boston, Hartshorn earned a bachelor’s degree in English literature and anthropology from Connecticut College.

“Much of my anthropological work in college focused on the tobacco and alcohol consumption in New London, a once-bustling port city now confronted with significant economic and social challenges,” he says. “I was interested in urban geography and history—in how our environments inform our behavior, beliefs and values over time, especially through trying circumstances. I was also—as I still am—invested in improving the conditions of daily life among those who are most marginalized.”

Through his work with Spanish-speaking communities on the East Coast, he became more interested in immigration issues, then eventually moved to Southern California to work toward his doctorate in anthropology.

“I had originally set out to conduct an ethnographic study of daily life among day laborers—or ‘jornaleros’ in Spanish—in Santa Ana, focusing on economic challenges, social networks and the like,” he says. “I spent a lot of time in a retail parking lot, learning names, making friends and generally establishing rapport, while trying to pick up some data along the way. …

“With the onset of the pandemic, the workers and I increasingly spoke about profound—one might even say existential—issues: life, death, morality, God. My work … came to focus on religious expression in a time and space of intense uncertainty.”

Hartshorn learned about the South County Crosscultural Council’s Day Worker Center and began speaking with workers there. Eventually, SCCC board chairman David Peck asked if Hartshorn would consider serving as the council’s director in a part-time role and then full time after completing his doctorate. “It was a no-brainer,” ‘Hartshorn says. “The work of SCCC is vital to our community.”

In addition to the Day Worker Center, which matches job seekers with contractors and homeowners who need help with landscaping, moving, home repairs and remodeling—find forms at crossculturalcouncil.com—the SCCC also runs La Playa, a program offering ESL classes at the Laguna Beach Community and Susi Q Senior Center as well as the San Juan Capistrano Community Center. For the past year, weekly ESL classes have also been offered at the Day Worker Center, where Hartshorn is adding resources: regular visits by health advocates and nurses from Providence Mission Hospital Mission Viejo and the Be Well OC Mobile Crisis Response Team, specializing in mental and behavioral health, plus legal aid from Santa Ana’s Public Law Center.

Below, Hartshorn—who lives in Long Beach with his fiancee, Sarah, and their cat, Pepita—shares more about his time spent in Laguna and what inspires him.

Tim_Hartshorn_credit Sarah Stanley
Tim Hartshorn, the new executive director of the South County Crosscultural Council | Photo by Sarah Stanley
Laguna Beach Magazine: What do you like about Laguna Beach?

Tim Hartshorn: I love the sense of community. … People here care deeply about their city, about its history, culture, institutions and natural beauty, and are open to new ideas and opportunities. You can really make a difference here..

 

Any favorite places in Laguna?

TH: I love hiking in Laguna Canyon. For a lover of nature—especially birds—such as myself, it provides the perfect setting to behold an incredible diversity of flora and fauna while getting some exercise. … In terms of restaurants, I’d like to give a shoutout to friend of the Day Worker Center, chef Leo Bongarra, who … [recently opened] a tapas and cocktails restaurant, Tango, right here in … Laguna.

 

What’s the last book you read that inspired or was meaningful to you?

TH: I’ve recently returned to Gary Soto’s poetry collection, “The Elements of San Joaquin,” first published in 1977 but still vibrant as ever. Soto is a California native and UC Irvine alumnus, along with being one of the most highly regarded poets of his generation.

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