Contributed by Skip Hellewell
Ann and John Richardson moved to Laguna Beach in 1997, settling into a Myrtle Street home designed and built by John’s parents back in 1963. A member of the LDS Church, Ann loved the friendly coziness of the Laguna Beach Ward. It was a fun place, she recalls, where if you accidentally forgot your sweater, you could find it the next Sunday just where you had left it.
Homelessness is perhaps one of our society’s greatest challenges, and some claim that no city has done more, on a per capita basis, than Laguna Beach. Compassionate people of good will, mostly members of the various churches, but especially St Mary’s Episcopal Church, have reached out to provide help. From this a number of organizations have been formed and Ann has been part of this: “As a homemaker I was instantly available and easily gravitated to these groups of willing workers.”
A volunteer by nature, she leapt at the opportunity to make cookies by the dozens for the homeless lunches given out by Family Assistance Ministries, a homeless prevention agency serving south Orange County. Her bishop next called her to represent the ward in Laguna’s Ecumenical Council (later renamed the Interfaith Council) where she has served for the past twenty years. Besides the Interfaith Council, Ann has served with ‘Café Pacifica’ (there was no ‘café’, just churches serving dinners to the homeless at Heisler Park), Laguna Relief (a response to the Laguna fire of 1993, which evolved to the ‘Resource Center’), the Alternate Sleeping Location (ASL, a city-sponsored service for the homeless), the Friendship Shelter (a remarkable organization dedicated to helping the homeless return to self-sufficiency), and Laguna Pantry (a distributor of donated food whose service has grown through good management).
Ann’s service to these groups—her ‘‘Laguna Beach occupation”, as she terms it—has been a labor of love. She has most often served as the volunteer coordinator. Tom Thorkelson, vice president of the Orange County Interfaith Network, describes Ann as “A person of great compassion... and a great organizer who accepts and appreciates people of all faiths.” Ann became addicted to this service, she says, “because these volunteers are the nicest people in the world.” As Ann referred to these good people, she was moved to tears.
Ann provided the information for this review of her service, but mostly spoke of the organizations that evolved out of need. But that is Ann—forget about getting her to estimate the thousands of hours served. She is, as always, a meek and humble giver who works behind the scene, ever elusive of the spotlight. She turned eighty at her last birthday and health challenges are now part of her life, but she soldiers on doing all she can. Around town our Ann Richardson is affectionately referred to as “Good Ann”, or “St. Ann”. But she really wishes people wouldn’t use such terms.