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San Clemente Journal

Beach Angels Making Friends and Helping Others.

Mar 07, 2024 03:02PM ● By Mary Colarik
by Mary Colarik

It's difficult to be the new person in any situation, but especially when it involves a move to a new school, town, state or country. I was the “new girl” in four different school systems, nine different neighborhoods and two states growing up. I was in my late 20s when I moved across the country far from friends and family. Thirty years later returning to my native state of California alone and settling in the Spanish Village by the Sea, I knew not a soul, but knew as an adult in my late 50s with no children in tow I would have to make my own way and find a friends group. 

When I met Sharon Gonzalez, I was impressed with her confidence and fortitude in starting a group for making friends in a new town. As a deposition reporter for over 30 years, when she and her husband moved to San Clemente from Mission Viejo a little over 20 years ago, she was ready to make some lifestyle changes. Her children were mostly grown, so she did not have the opportunity of meeting other moms at her children’s schools or extracurricular activities.  
Shortly after settling in their new home on Avenida Salvador Sharon made flyers, put them in her neighbors’ mailboxes asking them if they were interested in playing Bunco. That missive generated interest, and a neighborhood Bunco group formed; staying together until the pandemic hit. 

The success of the Bunco group gave Sharon another idea. She ran an ad in the Sun Post newspaper looking for women who wanted to make new friends and give back to the community. She named the group Beach Angels and the Sun Post’s ace reporter Fred Swegles wrote an article about the group. 

In 2003 the Beach Angels launched with seven women meeting to form a monthly event plan. They came up with two rules … rule one, every month each person in the group would write a check for $35 which would be donated to a charity of the members’ choice … rule two, no cliques. 

Beginning with one event per month the Beach Angels now get together and attend different social outings and charity events around Orange, LA and San Diego counties monthly. The O.C. museum, Chico’s Fashion Show, Felix’s, Mission San Luis Rey, glassblowing and lunch in Carlsbad are just a few of the social events attended in 2023. These are generally places that their spouses would not care to visit. 

As the group grew and evolved, they had more socials and meetings. Each month one woman with two helpers hosts a lunch on a Thursday and decides what the event will be for the month and which organization they will sponsor with their donation. Members sign up for the year so everybody has an idea of what the events are in advance. 

In the last 20 years, the Beach Angels have donated to numerous non-profits in San Clemente and the surrounding communities, such as Hope4Kids, Orangewood, Healing Hearts Foundation, Crystal Cove Conservancy, FAM, Fish for Life, Camp Pendleton Big Brothers, Surf and Turf Therapy, ALCV, Marine Scholarships and dozens of others. 

Although they are organized hosting lunches, social events and giving to organizations in need they are not a non-profit, so they keep it simple, with no by-laws and a limit of 35 women per year. There are seven to ten original members, with plenty of new people coming in as others leave the group. At one time there was a waiting list to join. 

I had the pleasure of meeting with several of the women at one of their luncheons. While lunching and chatting with the women, all mentioned that they like the social aspect and opportunity of meeting new people that the group offers. They also shared that they are very happy to have the opportunity to donate funds to help smaller non-profits who don’t always get as much funding for their programs. And some feel that they have collectively been through a lot together and have had opportunity to watch each other’s children and grandkids grow up. 

A few breakaway groups have now formed based on different interests-remaining with the firm no cliques rule. There is a book club, movie day, game night and lunch bunch. The women I spoke with also like the idea of no by-laws or strict rules simply getting together with common goals of giving back and socializing with women from all the different neighborhoods in San Clemente. As I was leaving, they were getting ready to play LRC, (Left, Right Center).
Beach Angels has been so successful that Sharon helped her good friend in Mission Viejo start a group in that community and it has been named, Hills Angels. 

As Author and “The Mother of Anthropology” Margaret Mead once said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” 

For more information about the group, contact Sharon@[email protected].