Welcome to LAUREL HOUSE Providing a Home for Teens in Crisis for 30 Years

Laurel House re-opening

Laurel House, a home for runaway teen girls in Tustin, reopens

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Visitors and administrators explore the newly refurbished Laurel House for at-risk teens in Tustin on Wednesday. ///ADDITIONAL INFO: TU.0514.LAURELHOUSE - 5/6/15 - PHOTO BY JOSHUA SUDOCK, STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER - Laurel House for at-risk teens is reopening May 6. The Tustin facility closed in 2014 after 29 years but supporters have helped save it. Picture made at Laurel House in Tustin on Wednesday, May 6, 2015.

Visitors and administrators explore the newly refurbished Laurel House for at-risk teens in Tustin on Wednesday.
 PHOTO BY JOSHUA SUDOCK,
STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

 

TUSTIN – In August, Tiffany Taylor had the rug pulled out from underneath her. Again.

That’s when the troubled teen found out Laurel House – a transitional home for at-risk girls – was out of money and shutting its doors. Taylor would have to go back to living with the grandparents she’d worked so hard to rebel against.

But Taylor’s nine months at Laurel House had changed her. She joined her church worship team, started choosing better friends and started get along with her grandparents.

“When she got home, she was a different person,” Taylor’s grandfather, Mike Rilea, said.

On Wednesday, Taylor nervously stood before a crowd of community leaders, business owners and philanthropists to thank them for rallying to save the place that had saved her.

Laurel House held a grand reopening ceremony, offering supporters a chance to tour the home that’s been renovated and recently welcomed its first new residents.

The nonprofit organization serves Southern California girls 12 to 17, housing up to six at a time who would otherwise be on the streets.

Laurel House got its start 30 years ago, when Nadene Holub was a nurse with the Tustin Unified School District. Too often when she prescribed a day of rest, teens told her they didn’t have anywhere to go. So Holub called friends, asking if they could take homeless and runaway teens in for a couple days.

Soon friend Elinor Tompkins suggested a more permanent solution. With seed money from churches, the two women founded Laurel House in 1985.

Despite hundreds of success stories, the organization’s finances started to go downhill amid the recession in 2008.

In July, board members announced Laurel House would have to dissolve and the home would be put up for sale unless they could raise $300,000.

Jim Palmer, president of the Orange County Rescue Mission, read about Laurel House’s plight in The Tustin News. Though the home provides only six beds, he said that’s 20 percent of beds available for that population in the entire county.

Visitors and administrators explore the newly refurbished Laurel House for at-risk teens in Tustin on Wednesday. The facility closed in 2014 after 29 years but supporters have helped save it. ///ADDITIONAL INFO: TU.0514.LAURELHOUSE - 5/6/15 - PHOTO BY JOSHUA SUDOCK, STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER - Laurel House for at-risk teens is reopening May 6. The Tustin facility closed in 2014 after 29 years but supporters have helped save it. Picture made at Laurel House in Tustin on Wednesday, May 6, 2015.

Orange County Rescue Mission quickly took over leadership and ownership of the home. Laurel House closed in August, but Palmer started making phone calls, soon recruiting an anonymous $100,000 donation, a $50,000 grant from philanthropists Howard and Roberta Ahmanson and additional donations.

A team went to work renovating the 1960s home, not only doing a complete remodel but also fixing plumbing and other pricey issues. Palmer also restructured the staff, folding some positions into Orange County Rescue Mission to cut monthly costs.

Donna Giddings, who’s been housemother at Laurel House for 18 years, recently moved back in to care for three girls who’ve already been placed there. She calls Palmer an “angel” who’s allowed the organization to get back to its mission of keeping girls off the streets, healing them and reuniting them with their families.

Taylor won’t be living at Laurel House anymore. But as the 18-year-old prepares to graduate from Foothill High, she’s looking forward to mentoring the new residents, encouraging them to listen to their parents and have hope that things will get better.

Contact the writer: BStaggs@OCRegister.com