News

Winter Family Camp 2018

 

Winter Family Camp 2018 took us back to Camp Stevens in Julian, California. The camp was led by past camper (now counselor) “Button” who came back to serve as our Program Director for her second winter camp in a row. Button thoughtfully crafted this camp’s theme, “Ohana”,  emphasizing the importance of family, both given and chosen, during the four day camp. “Ohana” celebrated the beauty of Native Hawaiian and Polynesian culture’s love of families. Winter camp was not only fun, but provided campers so many growth opportunities throughout the weekend, whether it was trying something new for the first time, making new friends, or gaining independence through choosing their own free choice activities.

On the first day of camp, families were welcomed with a delicious homemade pizza lunch, made from the ingredients of Camp Steven’s garden. Families then went off to their cabin groups to unpack and get to know each other. Many of our younger campers experienced their first night “away” from their parents – their first step into independence. Many of our older campers reconnected with old friends and helped guide other campers through their first day. Our parents were excited to have a break from their kids and enjoyed having  time to connect. Connections and a sense of support is a valuable outcome of our parent programming at family camp. Thank you counselors for watching the kids so the parents can have this valuable time to connect with one another!  After dinner, campers gathered in front of the dining hall for our opening program; A Night Under the Stars. Campers spent the night finding constellations through a telescope, mapping constellations with shadow boxes, and learning the history of constellations and greek mythology. Our CIT’s exercised their leadership skills through acting out traditional star stories, allowing younger campers to step outside of their comfort zone and explore their acting skills. Campers also had a lot of fun preparing their camp counselors for a trek into space, dressing them up in the most appropriate space clothing and giving them tips on their moonwalks.

The next morning campers enjoyed a morning full of family time. Families were able to leave their cabin groups to sit with their families and start their days together. After breakfast, first period was family hour. Family hour was a new favorite addition to camp program allowing families to spend quality time together and reconnect away from their normal routines of life down the mountain. Campers were able to rotate around activities like kite flying, piñata making, rocket launching, and sports.

We were also joined by a few special visitors throughout the weekend who provided specialty programs that allowed campers time to develop coping skills, try new things, and work collaboratively through exploration. Ready came up as an arts and crafts facilitator and taught the campers how to make lava lamps. Penguin led yoga, a very welcomed hour of relaxation and mindfulness for all of our campers but especially our parents. Chef and Frenchie surprised our campers and taught them how to make toffee and marshmallows. The campers were excited to have an extra sweet treat that day but our parents were even more excited to try Chef’s specialty: cheesecake! The night ended with a classic evening program: Family Feud! In their cabin groups, campers had to work together to find the top answers to the surveys! Try as they may, no one was able to beat the Moms and Tots, who took home the win!

On the last day of program, campers woke up to find it was snowing! This was the first time many of our and volunteers had ever experienced snow. Camper spent the rest of the day enjoying all of their camp activities with a little extra chill! That night at final campfire we were very excited to give out two very special awards! Our Apollo Award went to long time camper, Morgan! This award was extra special because Morgan was able to receive it from her long time mentor, Giggles. The second award went to a first time camper but long time dad, Brandon! He received the parent award for his spirit at camp. Campers went home feeling the love from every member of their Camp Laurel family.

We also would like to give an extra special shout out to our camper, Johnny, who took 90% of the photographs at camp. We are excited that camp has led Johnny to discover a true talent and eye for photography. Thank you for capturing all those magical growth moments at camp, Johnny!

We are so glad you found your special talent and are so grateful for all the beautiful photos you took!

 

 

Margot AndersonWinter Family Camp 2018
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2018 Volunteer of the Year!

The Laurel Foundation would like to extend a huge congratulations and thank you to our 2018 Volunteer of the year:

Mako! 

Mako began volunteering at The Laurel Foundation in 2016. Since then, he has shown the utmost dedication to The Laurel Foundation programs, mission, and campers who we serve. Over the past couple of years Mako has given a record number of hours to The Laurel Foundation programs. He truly is a volunteer we can always count on to help in any way he can! Not only has Mako volunteered at our resident camp programs, but also has been to several fundraisers and day events that help support our campers and raise funding for our programs.

 

When asked about his volunteer experience, Mako said: “Volunteering with camp is one of the best impulse decisions Ive ever made!. Camp lets you help youth grow while having the wacky, fun kind of camp experience you probably wished you had when you were a kid.”

 

Thank you Mako for the dedication you show to The Laurel Foundation programs, campers, and families. We are truly lucky to have you as volunteer and a member of the Camp Laurel family!

Margot Anderson2018 Volunteer of the Year!
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Memories from Summer Camp Session 2 July 30- August 2, 2017

Thank you to everyone who helped to make this camp possible (donors, volunteers and staff).  Session 2 was AMAZING.  And we have the photos to prove it (more will be uploaded so check back in a day or so)!  See you next year!

 

Margot AndersonMemories from Summer Camp Session 2 July 30- August 2, 2017
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Memories from Summer Camp Session 1 June 17-June 24, 2017

 

Summer Camp Session 1 took us back to the beautiful Camp Gilboa, on Bluff Lake in Big Bear, CA where 80 campers affected by HIV/AIDS enjoyed seven days of fun. The week’s activities provided a fun way for campers to learn important life skills such as independence, communication and problem solving.  Program activities help to empower the youth and build strong bonds among peers, which will prove to become important support systems in years to come.

The program was led by long time Camp Laurel volunteer, Coach! Coach’s vision, creativity and passion helped shape the warm, welcoming feeling of camp.  As Camp Laurel celebrates its 25th year, Coach’s camp theme took us back through loved camp traditions and important moments in the history of Camp Laurel.

On Sunday, camp officially kicked off and the “Camp Time Traveler,” Shout Out, brought news from the first Camp Laurel session way back in 1992! Campers enjoyed a totally tubular day at camp with an 90’s twist. During Arts and Crafts campers had the opportunity tie dye t-shirts in keeping with the camp theme. The first full day of camp was full of excitement as campers became familiar with the campsite and their cabin mates. The night’s evening program, “Retro Robots”, challenged campers to dress one of their cabin counselors as a robot! Campers had a great time both outfitting their counselors and seeing the work of their fellow campers. The throwback theme of the day helped set the stage for the remainder of the week’s wacky, time traveler fun. Each night campers in their cabin groups would debrief the day’s events and reflect on how lessons learned could be applied to their daily lives.

On Monday, campers celebrated Camp Laurel’s Canada Camp! Maple syrup was a plenty in the dining and campers showed their Canada pride by making Camp Laurel-Canada flags during Arts and Crafts. Another fun addition to the day was a special visit from long time camp counselor, Celery! Celery led the mountain bike program, taking kids on a fun mountain ride adventure through out the day. That night we also honored another Camp Laurel tradition – Nootie Birds! The elusive Nootie Birds, native to Camp Laurel, came out for the night and shared a bit of their magic with the campers.

Another Camp Laurel tradition honored at camp was our Holiday Party! The kids spent the day reflecting on the spirit behind all the holidays we celebrate and came together as a community to honor these. Through out the day campers were encouraged to share gratitudes and show appreciation to one another. The evening program brought it all together through a 365 party, which allowed campers to experience a year’s worth of holidays within an hour. From Fourth of July Parades to Valentine’s card making, campers were able to share in traditions with friends they only see in the summer! The feel of the day was full of love and support as campers got into the true holiday spirit.

On Thursday, the campers enjoyed a day with a new cabin group! Cabins were paired into families and spent the day together bonding and having fun with their new surrogate family on this Family Camp themed day. Campers were able to enjoy all the camp activities like canoeing on the lake and hiking with their cabin families. Camper families also shared meals together allowing campers to further bond with each other! The day ended with a blast of energy as the younger campers enjoyed music and tasted marshmallows by the campfire and older campers danced the night away at the outdoor dance.

Finally, we arrived to Friday – our last day of programing! The Camp Time Traveler blasted us to present day where campers were able to enjoy their last day of program together. Spirits were high and were lifted even higher by the night’s delicious dessert! Our camp chef, Chef Brian, specializes in creating artisan cheesecakes and saved this delicious treat for the last night at camp! With bellies full of tastiness, campers moved over to the final campfire where campers presented their cabin skits, reflected on the week’s lessons, and shared their wishes for the future.
As camp came to a close, campers returned home empowered and joyful, equipped with the life skills to achieve anything in life they set their minds to.

See you next year, Session 1!

 


Margot AndersonMemories from Summer Camp Session 1 June 17-June 24, 2017
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2017 Volunteer of the Year!

The Laurel Foundation is extremely fortunate to have the support of an outstanding volunteer base, who give their own personal time and resources to give back to children, youth and families affected by HIV/AIDS. It is only through this amazing group of selfless individuals that we are able to continue to provide free educational and support programs for the at-risk families we serve! It takes a very special kind of person to devote their vacation days, or take time off school, to volunteer, and today we want to take a moment to recognize one volunteer that has gone above and beyond even that high criteria.

Due to her incredible drive and dedication to supporting the families we serve, The Laurel Foundation is delighted to announce that our 2017 Volunteer of the Year is the one and only:

Juice Box!

Juice Box has become such an important part of the Camp Laurel family as she volunteers not only at camp but also as our Nonprofit Management Intern. Her dedication of time and energy to The Laurel Foundation’s mission, campers, and families is ahh-mazing!

At camp she can be found interacting with campers, appreciating volunteers, wow-ing everyone with her incredible flexibility and positive spirit. She is always ready to greet the campers and her fellow counselors with some positivity!

We asked Juice Box how she initially become involved with The Laurel Foundation:

“The Laurel Foundation had advertised within the Public Health Department at SDSU. My professor shared the opportunity with us and although I was not able to volunteer that semester, I ended up applying the next summer. ”  

We asked Juice Box what some of her favorite parts about volunteering with The Laurel Foundation so far:

“I love getting to see how much behind the scenes work in the office it takes to put on camp, but also have loved being brought in to the Camp Laurel family. It’s great seeing the kids at camp and working with the volunteers- it feels like one big happy family.”

Throughout her time in the office Juice Box can be found constantly asking: “What else can I do to help?” An invaluable and much appreciated phrase in the office!

Juice Box, we appreciate you for your time, dedication, and positive spirit you bring to The Laurel Foundation!

Thank you!

Margot Anderson2017 Volunteer of the Year!
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Summer Camp 2016 Recap

This summer’s Camp Laurel program was an absolute whirlwind of fun, new activities, and so many memories! Thanks to our amazing volunteers and donors, our campers were able to spend a week surrounded by a supportive community of their peers where they got to participate in engaging activities like swimming, challenge courses, native arts, high ropes, archery, and so much more!

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As always, the goal of Camp Laurel is to build our campers’ sense of self-esteem and self-worth by encouraging them to try new activities, work outside of their comfort zones, and develop new skill sets. In addition to many traditional camp activities, Camp Laurel introduced new and unique programming this summer focused on helping our campers develop skills that can benefit their everyday lives. Our older campers were treated to a brand new cooking program courtesy of our guest staff “Thunder” from Jameson Ranch Camp. This workshop not only helped them create culinary wonders for the entire camp community (like Nopales and handmade granola bars), but it also showed them how they can incorporate healthy eating habits using ingredients they can find in their own neighborhoods into their everyday meals.

An exciting new mountain biking program pushed campers of all ages to expand their perceived capacities and rise to the challenge of this invigorating outdoor sport. It also showed our campers a whole new way to explore the beauty of nature and get a killer workout to boot! Campers were further encouraged to expand their love of nature through more new outdoor activities such as geocaching, and trenting (another Jameson Ranch Camp guest program). Geocaching introduced many campers to the different ways they can navigate through nature and trenting gave a whole new meaning to outdoor adventures!

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This summer we also added in some very special elements for our teen campers, including an overnight campout adventure, complete with a long hiking in, tent camping, and stories around the campfire! The teens were encouraged to work as a team to make the program a success, as together they had to hike up all their supplies, build their campsite, and work as a community throughout the evening. In addition to spending a fun evening under the stars, the teen overnight campout also gave this group a chance to bond with other youth encountering the same stigma and challenges as themselves, and helped lay the foundation for a positive peer support system that they can turn to both inside of camp and throughout the year.

The stories they brought back, memories they made, and teamwork they developed just goes to show that s’mores and sleeping under the stars is the perfect way to end the summer!

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Although a lot of new programs were added this summer, Camp Laurel still kept our favorite traditions going! Back by popular demand, our campers were treated to Camp Laurel’s favorite evening program- the Great Noodie Bird Hunt! The counselor team also put on one of the best all-camp dances in recent memory, complete with photo booth, costumes, and all the best dance tunes that DJ Kidney Bean could find!

Whether it was through new activities or class camp favorites, campers of all ages were given the unique opportuntiy to try new experiences, rise beyond their perceived capacities, and develop new life skills such as teamwork, leadership, and communication through the programs presented at Camp Laurel.

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Even with all the fun activities that camp offers, we’ve heard time and again from youth that have graduated our programs that Camp Laurel has provided them with so much more than just a fun time. Camp Laurel is a place where they learn to believe in themselves, where they are taught to work with their peers towards common objectives, and where they get to expand their abilities. Its a safe place they can return to year after year where they are not judged for what they’re dealing with, but supported for who they are.

This summer we saw yet another group of amazing young adults embrace these ideals through Camp Laurel’s Counselor-In-Training program. This leadership development program helped these campers use the skills they’ve learned at Camp Laurel to support other youth in the program by taking on leadership roles and responsibilities. Over the course of camp, the teens in this program developed crucial life skills (active listening, communication, problem solving, etc) through leadership workshops and hands-on experience leading programs and supporting the younger campers. This group set the bar even higher for CITs following in their footsteps, with the incredible amount of care, creativity, and great leadership potential they showed every day of the program! What an amazing team!

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This summer was without a doubt one of the most fun Camp Laurel programs in recent memory and makes us even more excited to get back to camp with our Family Camp program early next year! We can’t wait to see you all there!!!

Margot AndersonSummer Camp 2016 Recap
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Camp Laurel changed my life

My name is Grissel Granados and I was a camper with Camp Laurel from the age of 7 to about 17, actually I was there at the very first Camp Laurel ever! Camp Laurel was a family tradition as well, once my little sister was old enough she went to Summer Camp every year with me; and in the winter my mom, my sister, and I all went to Camp Laurel’s Family Camp.
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As a person who was born with HIV, Camp Laurel was instrumental to my growing up without stigma and allowing me to just be a kid. While my family made me feel loved and told me I could do whatever I set my mind to, regardless of my HIV status, Camp Laurel was a place where I could actually see it for myself. At camp I could push myself to try new things that were beyond my imagination (particularly growing up as a poor person of color), such as horseback riding, or kayaking…it is where I learned how to swim, and where I challenged my fear of heights with the support of my camp friends and counselors.
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Camp Laurel reminded me that I wasn’t alone…

I felt the support of my camp family through the hard times I faced outside of camp as well. When I was 10 I was diagnosed with cancer and had to undergo chemo therapy. I remember one camp counselor shaved his head in solidarity when I had to cut off my hair. I also remember having camp friends visit me in the hospital. Camp Laurel reminded me that I wasn’t alone and it was my safe haven in between chemo sessions.
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My friendships with the kids I met through The Laurel Foundation spanned beyond the few days a year we got to spend together. We kept in touch through out the year writing letters to each other. The importance of these friendships  proved to be much more valuable as we grew up and started to face the real world as teens and young adults growing up with HIV..After camp, I went off to UC Santa Barbara for college and proceeded to become a social worker in the HIV field working with Adolescents and Young Adults who are living with or at-risk for acquiring HIV. Despite my professional experience in the field of HIV/AIDS, I found that without the friends I met through Camp Laurel in my life, I started to feel extremely isolated. I started to think I was the only person born with HIV, even though intellectually I knew I wasn’t.

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I took it upon myself to re-connect with the community I lost through the process of creating a documentary on the first generation of people born with HIV in the 80s and 90s. I interviewed 4 young adults, one of them being my best friend from Camp Laurel, Allie. There were many commonalities in our story, but the most striking was this sense of isolation. From those who did not get the opportunity to go to camp, there was a almost sense of injustice and envy that they missed out on such a critical source of support that only a few of us had.

I’ve done about a dozen screenings a cross the country since September of last year when I premiered the film and the question that comes up 100% of the time is about camp, because Allie mentions how important it was for her. This clip is only about 30 seconds and yet every single time it is something that touches audiences. People want to know where there are camps, how they can connect kids they know to camp, how they can support The Laurel Foundation’s mission. At every screening I get asked how we recreate something like this for those of us who are in our late 20s and early 30s now, and still very much in need of the experiences that The Laurel Foundation provides.

I am the person I am today because I went to Camp Laurel

.As a 29 year old woman today I continue to reap the benefits of having gone to Camp Laurel during my childhood. I am in touch with camp friends through Facebook, I meet up with them for lunch from time to time. I see pictures of their weddings and their kids and I feel re-connected to my own community… I continue to see examples of how we can do anything we set our minds to despite our HIV status. Every few years I pull out my box of Camp Laurel mementos and reminisce. As I try new experiences now, I always have some example of how I have tried something similar before at camp to give me courage and push my boundaries. I am the person I am today and I continue to try new things because I went to Camp Laurel.

 

Grissel

– Grissel Granados

Margot AndersonCamp Laurel changed my life
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Careers

If you’re looking for a career where you will get to make a direct impact on the lives of at-risk children and youth, then consider joining The Laurel Foundation’s team! The Laurel Foundation’s staff works alongside our donors and volunteers to further our nonprofit’s mission of empowering and supporting children, youth, and families affected by HIV/AIDS. As a member of The Laurel Foundation’s team, you will be able to engage in fulfilling work that makes an tangible difference in the lives of some of the most vulnerable members of our community.


Nonprofit Management Intern   

Time commitment:

One semester minimum, 15 hrs per week (Monday-Friday)

Position Description:

The Nonprofit Management Intern will support The Laurel Foundation’s mission of empowering children, youth and families affected by HIV/AIDS by building community networks, participating in outreach events, researching new sources of funding, soliciting in-kind donations, and supporting organizational events. Depending on your interests and skills, you may also have the opportunity to participate in other aspects of nonprofit work such as social media communications, grant writing, and event planning.

Responsibilities:

  • Be able to clearly communicate the mission, programs, and successes of The Laurel Foundation
  • Research new sources of funding that align with The Laurel Foundation’s mission and vision
  • Complete all tasks in a timely manner
  • Represent The Laurel Foundation at outreach and community events
  • Update and develop new outreach materials
  • Convey The Laurel Foundation’s mission across various social media platforms
  • Assist in fund raising campaigns and events

Qualifications:

  • Previous professional, volunteer, or classroom experience with nonprofits (preferred)
  • Strong attention to detail and time management skills
  • Exceptional organizational, communication, and writing skills
  • Able to take constructive criticism and confidence in expressing ideas
  • Basic social media knowledge and graphic design skills
  • Self-motivated and able to work with minimal supervision
  • Ability to plan, organize, and effectively present ideas to a group
  • Proficiency with Microsoft Office programs and basic office equipment
  • Creativity and a great sense of humor

Benefits:

  • Gain insight into nonprofit management and structure
  • Network with local businesses and nonprofit professionals
  • Work with diverse populations in cross-cultural or multicultural settings
  • Build professional resume with tangible outcomes
  • Learn or expand current knowledge of the fundamentals of fundraising

Application Instructions:

Send resume and Nonprofit Management Intern Application to our Director of Volunteer, Lauren Franklin, at lfranklin@laurel-foundation.org

Margot AndersonCareers
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2016 Volunteer of the Year!

The Laurel Foundation is extremely fortunate to have the support of an outstanding volunteer base, who sacrifice their own personal time and resources to give back to children, youth and families affected by HIV/AIDS. It is only through this amazing group of selfless individuals that we are able to continue to provide free educational and support programs for the at-risk families we serve! It takes a very special kind of person to devote their vacation days, or take time off school, to volunteer, and today we want to take a moment to recognize one volunteer that has gone above and beyond even that high criteria.

Due to her incredible drive and dedication to supporting the families we serve, The Laurel Foundation is delighted to announce that our 2016 Volunteer of the Year is the one and only TATOR TOT!

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To find out more about Tater Tot’s experience volunteering with The Laurel Foundation, we started by asking how she got involved in the first place.

I first found out about Camp Laurel through my friend, Laura (Cheese). We were grabbing food after work one day and I mentioned that I was trying to find ways to get involved in the community. Hearing that, Laura said that I had to give volunteering at Camp Laurel a try because I’d be a perfect fit for the program.   Although I had never worked at a camp before, I knew that I liked working with kids from my experience as a classroom aid and working at a family family back in WA. The way that she spoke about Camp Laurel and the community it creates definitely got me interested, so I decided to apply. 

I’m so glad it all worked out, because my phone interview to join my first camp was rough! Right before I was scheduled to call the office, my car broke down, leaving me stranded in the Santa Monica Library parking lot. I had to answer interview questions while muffling the sound of traffic and dodging people asking for donations! 

Fortunately, despite her rough first call, Tater Tot showed to be a natural fit for our camp family and has been volunteering with us ever since. Not only is TaterTot an incredible asset to camp, she has also been an unbelievable support at our events throughout the year and at the office. No matter if its a project large or small, she never hesitates to step up and help out!
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Nothings prepares you of the amazing community that makes up the Camp Laurel family.

I remember at my first camp training they pulled me and the other new counselors aside right when the day started. When we walked in to join the rest of the staff, everyone started singing the “we love you new counselors” song, and I was blown away. I thought, “what the heck have I just gotten myself into?!”

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Since she joined The Laurel Foundation’s team in 2013, TaterTot has been a steady fixture at both camp and The Laurel Foundation’s year-round events. In fact, Tater Tot hasn’t missed a camp since she started volunteering at Camp Laurel!

In particular, I love the evening programs at Camp Laurel because you never know what you’re going to get with them! Anytime you run a big all-camp activity, you can be sure that something changes from what you had planned and that you’re going to have to be flexible and adjust. Thats one of the great things about volunteering at camp. I think, that you have to learn to let it go and just live in the moment. 
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We asked Tater Tot why coming back to Camp Laurel every year was so important to her, and her answer really touched our hearts:

I keep coming back to Camp Laurel because its so rewarding to get to know the campers through the different programs. As you keep coming back, campers begin to recognize you and you become a part of their lives. And every camp you get to know them a little better as well, which really gets you invested in these kids and their development as individuals. Its almost like they become a part of your extended family and every time you reconnect at camp is like a reunion.

My favorite part of camp is the unscheduled time you get with your campers in the cabins. Even though these aren’t the times when we’re doing all the fun camp programming, this is when you really get to know the kids you’re working with. When its just your cabin hanging out, they let you see their silly sides and who they are as individuals. This is when you really get to see them grow.

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TaterTot, the positivity, compassion, and dedication you bring to everything you do is an inspiration to witness. Thanks for being the amazing person you are! We’re so lucky to have you on The Laurel Foundation team!

Margot Anderson2016 Volunteer of the Year!
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