Founded in 1975, Laguna Beach Seniors was one of the first nonprofits in Orange County to serve older adults. For many years, we remained a small, volunteer-intensive organization working out of Legion Hall. After years of advocacy, a coalition of board members and community leaders launched Project Senior Center. The success of this capital campaign resulted in a permanent home of our own — the Susi Q — which opened in 2009 as an independent yet integral part of a new community center in the heart of town. Laguna Beach Seniors quickly morphed into an innovative, privately-financed, and professionally-managed senior services agency. Today, the Susi Q is an essential part of community life, where our fastest-growing demographic is living it up, finding the help they need, and remaining active in a community-wide effort to make the hometown we love an even better place for the rest of our lives.
About Susi Q
In 2005, the Quilter family pledged $750,000 toward the building of the planned senior center in return for the honor of naming the facility. Why the “Susi Q”? As her four sons explained, the matriarch of the family, longtime local Elizabeth (Liz) Quilter, would have found an “Elizabeth Quilter Senior Center” far too stuffy. Because she was best known for writing a column in the local paper under the pen name Susi Q, the naming decision was an easy one. Independence and community were bedrock values for Liz, and to this day those are the values that underpin everything we do at the Susi Q.
1975 • Laguna Beach Seniors was born. History of Laguna Beach Seniors 1975
1999 • LBS Board, under the leadership of President Louise Buckley, votes to build a senior center that LBS would own and operate
2000 • Vision Laguna — a community-based project to develop a shared vision of Laguna over the next 30 years — identifies a new senior center as one of its priorities.
2001 • Led by Paul Freeman and Steve Dicterow, the City of Laguna Beach agrees to purchase property on Third Street for a Community Center and Senior Center. • The City obtains a $379,000 grant from the State to help with the new building.
2002 • Led by President Marthann Newton, LBS initiates Project Senior Center, a capital campaign to build, furnish, and endow a new senior center. • LBS receives its first room-naming pledges. • Skipper Lynn becomes President. The board focuses on strategies to raise funds for operations as well as the capital campaign.
2003 • Led by President Pauline Walpin, LBS enters an intensive, ongoing phase of capacity building in order to strengthen the agency and prepare it for a new home.• Elizabeth Pearson takes on leadership responsibilities for Project Senior Center.
2004 • The City Council certifies the EIR for the Community and Senior Centers, after Planning Commission review. • LBS agrees to a one story building because of the daunting fundraising goal and neighborhood opposition to a 2-story structure. • LBS signs a Joint Development Agreement with the City, which caps its share of construction costs at $2.5 million, after $138,000 in initial development costs. LBS also commits to raising an additional $250,000 for furnishings and fixtures.
2005 • Plans are finalized for a single structure with two wings, one for a community center and one for a senior center, with shared space in the middle for staff. • The four sons of Elizabeth Quilter pledge $750,000 to name the Susi Q Senior Center. • Elizabeth Pearson steps down as Capital Campaign Chair, but remains LBS liaison to the City. The new Chair is Ann Quilter, later joined by Darrcy Loveland Bickel as Co-Chair. • The Hearts of Montage, the foundation of the Montage Resorts & Spa, announces a $350,000 challenge grant and gives an additional $150,000 to underwrite the costs of the capital campaign. • “Lagunatics 2005: Senior Prom” is the first major fundraiser for the Project Senior Center capital campaign. It nets $50,000 which is matched by the Hearts of Montage. • The City and LBS agree to a shared parking management plan to cut the cost of underground parking. The new parking structure has 71 full-sized spaces, including handicap parking and a wheelchair accessible elevator. • Additional room and other naming opportunities are sold at the LBS Holiday Party.
2006 • June: by a 4-0 vote, the City Council approves the plans and $15 million budget for the senior/community center. • October: the Planning Commission approves the Conditional Use Permit and revised Environmental Impact Report for the project. • November: the Planning Commission unanimously approves the plans for the project, with the addition of side windows and changes to the Third Street wall. • December: the City Council gives final approval to the project. • Fundraising efforts continue throughout the year, with just over $2 million in cash and irrevocable pledges raised.
2007 • Groundbreaking takes place on April 3, 2007. Additional major donors pledge gifts to the capital campaign, which continues throughout the year.
2008 • The capital campaign announces in February that it has met its $2.5 million obligation to the City and was making progress towards raising $300,000 for furnishings and fixtures. The agency has a new Transition Committee to plan for a smooth launch at the Susi Q.
January 31, 2009 • The Susi Q Senior Center is dedicated and opens its doors.
2020 • Susi Q enters the digital age by creating the Susi Q Without Walls during the pandemic, offering the majority of programs online as well as in person.
2022 • To create a professional, functional, and accessible environment at the Susi Q for both in-person and online (Zoom) participation (hybrid), significant upgrades to meeting rooms were completed by a professional A/V company.
Present Time • We are living it up at the Susi Q!