By the way: Generous support on North Coast

By Ann Garlick January 02, 2010 01:43 pm

North Coasters are hugely generous.

Looking over the list of donors and sponsors from various local organization, such as Community Concerts, the Orchestra Guild, DN Association for Cultural Awareness, Lighthouse Repertory Theater and Habitat for Humanity, one thing stands out. They all depend, some totally, on voluntary support, including the financial end of it.

Many of the names of supporters appear on several, if not all, of these groups. Organizations like these exist for the enhancement of life up this way, as do dozens of other local volunteer-based operations. Such groups and their supporters are among the “angels” in our midst, just as no Broadway show, for example, makes the boards without its “angels.”

This reminds me of Orange County and its slow but steady transformation from laid-back agricultural existence to bustling upscale semi-metrohood. The galvanizing force for much of this came from the presence of several major, nationally known attractions, such as Disneyland, Knott’s Berry Farm and the presence of nationally important sports in Anaheim.

Back in the late 1950s and the ’60s, the population was meager compared to today. As with us, the same people and businesses would turn out every year to support first-class repertory theater, the arts, major and minor symphony orchestras, grand opera, the Laguna Beach Festival of Arts, and four — count ’em — four chapters of the Community Concerts Association.

The county had a respectable number of notables in residence. Highest profiles were always film or TV stars. At fundraising times one or more would often lend their names, or talents and presence, to whatever they personally liked to support — especially the theater.

For example, Buddy Ebsen (“Beverly Hillbillies”) and his wife at that time, Nancy, always came out strongly for Boy and Girl Scout troop support. Their kids belonged to local troops. Nancy, a dedicated cultural-booster, helped launch the California Arts Council, and she was a hands-on supporter of local theatrical projects, among others.

John Wayne once loaned Orange County’s new chapter of the Freedoms Foundation at Valley Forge, a national group, one of his recent films to help out a fund-raiser. Book events always brought out the cream of whatever nationally known authors lived among us. And so it went.

In retrospect and counting the prodigious support here for a truly overwhelming set of organizations, be they philanthropic, educational and/or entertaining, the North Coast generosity factor impacts every aspect of life here from basic growth to enhancement of the status quo. It holds together the fabric of North Coast society at its best.

Do the numbers — populations against cultural assets, North Coast against the southernmost coast. You angels out there can be proud. Per capita says it all.

Ann Terrill Garlick is a veteran, award-winning journalist and a native Californian. She spent nearly 23 years as one of the editors at the Orange County Register.