Going door-to-door and asking a few simple questions, Brittany Ambrosanio turned a once-less-than-sociable gated community in San Juan Capistrano into a neighborhood.
The 12-year-old said she could no longer bear the loneliness of being stuck in a new neighborhood without a playmate. So she set out in search of one.
"I knocked on doors to see if any of my neighbors had kids my age," said Brittany, who moved there two years ago. "But most of the kids were either too old or too young."
Surprised that most of her neighbors didn't know one another, the sixth-grader at St. John's Episcopal School in Rancho Santa Margarita knocked on yet more doors, and scribbled the names, numbers and addresses of 79 neighbors into a notebook.
A year later, using her computer, she compiled the information she had gathered into a booklet she called the Ocean Pointe Directory, which she offered exclusively to Ocean Pointe residents.
"It's a wonderful little thing," said Bill Myers, who lives a couple of houses from Brittany. "She charged five bucks for it, but it's very useful."
Myers said it has brought the small community closer together.
"Now everyone knows everyone else," he said. "We wave to each other."
Some neighbors offered a few publishing tips.
"This one woman said, 'Oh, this is great, this is excellent. You should make a smaller one to fit in your purse,' " said Brittany, twirling her hair.
Some opted to remain anonymous.
"Some of the older people said they didn't need to be in it," she said.
The directory also contains other useful numbers, like that of the graffiti hotline (834-3400) and a traffic information number that neighbors said comes in handy before their morning commute.
Having trouble finding Camino Las Ramblas or Bonita Park? Just turn to page seven for the street and public facilities map. Need a baby-sitter? There's a number in the book.
Brittany's mother, Margie, said she thinks the directory makes everyone feel safe.
"I think everyone is in the same boat when you move into a new neighborhood," she said. "Now they have someone to call if there's an emergency or something."
One of Brittany's teachers at St. John's said Brittany will receive class credit for working on the directory, because one of the school's requirements is that students complete 15 hours of community service a year. The teacher said she was impressed with Brittany's work.
"It seems she enhanced the lives of her neighbors as well as her own," said religion instructor Mary Robinson.
Brittany said she plans to update the directory regularly, but right now she's concentrating on playing volleyball for the Laguna Beach Volleyball Club. And she's still searching for a friend in her neighborhood.
"I made friends with this one girl who lived down the street," she said. "But her dad got transferred and they moved away."