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Costa Mesa Embraced Me

Valerie Torelli, Torelli Realty, Costa Mesa

“I grew up thinking I was poor. I mean, I always had food and stuff – but I came from nothing, literally. Born poor, no formal education, no nothing.

“But none of that seemed to matter when I came to Costa Mesa. From the day I got here, I feel like Costa Mesa embraced me – and I will never forget. It’s why we give back about 5% of everything we make to the city. Costa Mesa embraces me and I embrace them back.

“I remember back in 1983, I was just starting out and I heard that Costa Mesa was cutting the donut fund for the Senior Center. Money is tight and they can’t afford $150 a year to give the seniors their donuts anymore. At this point, I’m 20-something and thinking to myself, ‘I don’t just want to work here. I want to live here, be a part of the city, get involved and make it a better place to live. This isn’t right to take donuts from our seniors.’

“So I hired a bunch of high school kids and we all went down to the City Council Meeting. I stood up and said, ‘I am here, right now, cutting a check to make sure the senior citizens of our community – who have put their time into Costa Mesa and should be honored – they get what they deserve. They should have their donuts.’ And then here come all these high school kids with donuts down the aisles. It was a great moment – and we’ve been helping like that ever since.

“I think coming from humble beginnings is what makes me so committed to giving, now. I don’t ask for things, I ask how I can help. What can I do to help you solve it? If the Fire Department needs us, well good. I’m there. That’s just what it means to be part of a community. You find your compassion and you commit.”

– Valerie Torelli, Torelli Realty, Costa Mesa

About The Author

Hearts of Costa Mesa

Hearts of Costa Mesa is a curated journey through the rich diversity of Costa Mesa life. We'll be sharing vignettes and stories through the reflections of Costa Mesa's residents and regulars. This is an ongoing project, a tapestry we'll continue to weave over time. Please contact us through the website if you'd like to participate. Read all the Hearts of Costa Mesa vignettes here.

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