Laguna Beach residents connect online to shower their area with acts of kindness.

The Facebook group that turned into a crew of do-gooders.

“Hey everyone, there’s a ‘random act of kindness’ painting party at Lori’s this weekend!”

According to Lori Lara, that’s all it took to get her house repaired and painted free of charge — a simple Facebook post by a friend. Before she knew it, a group of do-gooders was at her house with donated supplies, ready for endless hours of volunteer work.

So how did this all come about?


The group painting at Lori Lara's house. Image provided by Chris Kreymann, used with permission.

There’s an unusual kind of Facebook group in Laguna Beach, California.

As reported by Manny Otiko for The Press Enterprise, the closed Facebook group is called “Laguna Beach Unhinged.” It serves a few purposes: to make people laugh, to provide relief from stress, and to keep folks connected to the area and to each other.

The group was started a couple of years ago by Chris Kreymann, who grew up and lives in Laguna Beach. It has about 350 members, all of whom have ties to the area, and most of whom Chris estimates to be in their 50s and 60s. The rules, Chris explained in an email, are simple: “No religion, no politics, and treat each other with respect.”

While this all may sound pretty standard for an informal Facebook group, “Laguna Beach Unhinged” has something unique going for it: random acts of kindness.

For example, they hosted recurring “painting parties” at Lori’s house, prompted by a Facebook post by one of the group members. “The last time we had the house painted it was $6,000,” Lori told The Press Enterprise. Group members spent multiple weekends repairing, power-washing, and painting Lori’s house — all just because she needed the help.

Members of "Laguna Beach Unhinged" working on Lori's house. Image provided by Chris Kreymann, used with permission.

“Laguna Beach Unhinged” has done good deeds besides house painting, too.

Chris listed a few of the “random acts of kindness” they’ve completed: raised $1,500 to cover a friend’s medical expenses, hosted multiple celebration of life services, donated funds for members to visit family, made hospital visits, provided modest employment to those in need of work ... the list goes on.

“These are some concrete examples,” he wrote. “But the group serves a much broader purpose every day. We often hear from members that our humor, good will and ... comments offer laughter and relief when members have stressful conditions in their lives [such as] illness in the family, trouble on the job, and loneliness.”

Lori's house with repair and painting almost complete. Image provided by Chris Kreymann, used with permission.

How does Chris imagine the group will change over time? "No idea," he said. "The concept of our group is that everyone has an equal voice, and the group will create its own future."

But no matter where the group ends up, it seems that the jokes, friendships, and acts of kindness are here to stay. It's a great reminder that something as simple as a Facebook group can truly have a real-world impact.

Members of the group also get together just to have fun! Image provided by Chris Kreymann, used with permission.

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Culture

Disney has come under fire for problematic portrayals of non-white and non-western cultures in many of its older movies. They aren't the only one, of course, but since their movies are an iconic part of most American kids' childhoods, Disney's messaging holds a lot of power.

Fortunately, that power can be used for good, and Disney can serve as an example to other companies if they learn from their mistakes, account for their misdeeds, and do the right thing going forward. Without getting too many hopes up, it appears that the entertainment giant may have actually done just that with the new Frozen II film.

According to NOW Toronto, the producers of Frozen II have entered into a contract with the Sámi people—the Indigenous people of the Scandinavian regions—to ensure that they portray the culture with respect.

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Though there was not a direct portrayal of the Sámi in the first Frozen movie, the choral chant that opens the film was inspired by an ancient Sámi vocal tradition. In addition, the clothing worn by Kristoff closely resembled what a Sámi reindeer herder would wear. The inclusion of these elements of Sámi culture with no context or acknowledgement sparked conversations about cultural appropriation and erasure on social media.

Frozen II features Indigenous culture much more directly, and even addressed the issue of Indigenous erasure. Filmmakers Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck, along with producer Peter Del Vecho, consulted with experts on how to do that respectfully—the experts, of course, being the Sámi people themselves.

Sámi leaders met with Disney producer Peter Del Vecho in September 2019.Sámediggi Sametinget/Flickr

The Sámi parliaments of Norway, Sweden and Finland, and the non-governmental Saami Council reached out to the filmmakers when they found out their culture would be highlighted in the film. They formed a Sámi expert advisory group, called Verddet, to assist filmmakers in with how to accurately and respectfully portray Sámi culture, history, and society.

In a contract signed by Walt Disney Animation Studios and Sámi leaders, the Sámi stated their position that "their collective and individual culture, including aesthetic elements, music, language, stories, histories, and other traditional cultural expressions are property that belong to the Sámi," and "that to adequately respect the rights that the Sámi have to and in their culture, it is necessary to ensure sensitivity, allow for free, prior, and informed consent, and ensure that adequate benefit sharing is employed."

RELATED: This aboriginal Australian used kindness and tea to trump the racism he overheard.

Disney agreed to work with the advisory group, to produce a version of Frozen II in one Sámi language, as well as to "pursue cross-learning opportunities" and "arrange for contributions back to the Sámi society."

Anne Lájla Utsi, managing director at the International Sámi Film Institute, was part of the Verddet advisory group. She told NOW, "This is a good example of how a big, international company like Disney acknowledges the fact that we own our own culture and stories. It hasn't happened before."

"Disney's team really wanted to make it right," said Utsi. "They didn't want to make any mistakes or hurt anybody. We felt that they took it seriously. And the film shows that. We in Verddet are truly proud of this collaboration."

Sounds like you've done well this time, Disney. Let's hope such cultural sensitivity and collaboration continues, and that other filmmakers and production companies will follow suit.

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