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Center Debut: Hard Work for Guilds

October 08, 1986|ELLEN APPEL

Maybe money isn't everything.

"These are the people who really pushed up their sleeves and worked," said former Guilds chairman Betty Belden, pointing to the crowd that overflowed the Noguchi sculpture gardens Sunday at the Guilds Opening Night celebration for the Performing Arts Center.

The evening was a tribute to members of the 43 guilds who managed to raise $2.5 million over the past eight years through their energy and efforts. Praise also went to Georgia Spooner, who founded the entire system of guilds. "It was a lot of work, but it was worth it," she said.

Spooner's idea was to touch as many people as possible through a diverse network of social clubs that varied by location, social composition and fund-raising style.

For the Record
Los Angeles Times Thursday October 9, 1986 Orange County Edition View Part 5 Page 4 Column 1 View Desk 1 inches; 36 words Type of Material: Correction
In a picture accompanying an article about the Guilds' Opening Night celebration on Saturday for the Orange County Performing Arts Center, Guilds chairman JoAnn Boswell was the third person, not Betty Belden, with Georgia Spooner and Patricia Rowley.

Cheryl Young, who lined up at a buffet table with her husband Jim, explained that her chapter, Chopin, in Emerald Bay, for example, consists of women who raise funds by testing recipes and selling a cookbook of the best.

The intricate network was originally called "the Women's Guilds" because Spooner thought that only women would be interested. But she was wrong.

Men Wanted to Join In

"The women were having so much fun that the men said, 'Hey, why not include us too?,' " Spooner said. Soon the guilds were declared an equal-opportunity organization. The Boosters, a support group for female guild members in Leisure World, were the first men to get involved.

Then the Cabaret chapter went co-ed. "It was about time the women caught on," said Dean Rathbun, one of the first males to infiltrate the guilds. Cabaret was originally a singles group, but in time, the membership included couples as well. Rathbun, in fact, married a fellow member.

"My goal was to build the Center, not to get married," recalled Rathbun, who said he purposely avoided dating other chapter members. But his resolve weakened after the first year, when he began dating Cindy Wemyss. Then, a month later, on July 7, 1983--the same day the Center broke ground--he proposed. "I figured that if she was as involved in the Center as she is, she'd be a good catch."

Tips on Meeting Men

These days, when women ask her advice, Cindy Rathbun counsels them to follow in her footsteps. "If you want to meet good men--quality men--get involved in a charity that is dear to you."

Cabaret has the success record to prove Rathbun right.

Mike Dixon said he met his wife Ann through another Cabaret member.

Barbara Steinberg, chairman-elect of the guilds and chairman of the event, said she selected the outdoor sculpture gardens (and prayed for good weather) because no other place could accommodate such a large group. "We've been worried about rain all week, but we have wind instead," she said.

The warm Santa Ana winds rearranged hair styles and blew paper dessert cups off party plates, but the 1,750 enjoying the "California Scenario" of hot sausages, swordfish en brochette and New York-style deli, barely noticed. After the long years of working and waiting, they were about to enjoy the Center they had built.

In time, six trumpeters in gilt helmets, gold-braided uniforms and plumes heralded the party's end, and guests paraded behind them to Segerstrom Hall.

While Leontyne Price waited in the wings, Guilds chairman JoAnn Boswell welcomed members "at last" to the Center, and along with past chairmen Betty Belden, Carol Wilken and Patricia Rowley, presented Georgia Spooner with a commemorative gift, inscribed with the words:

"Georgia, thanks to your foresight, dedication and love, we are in the Center tonight."

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