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Talent Showcase Begins Season of Giving for Holiday Project

November 14, 1986|MARILYN PITTS

Entertainment Extravaganza, Saturday night's event at Orange Coast College's Forum auditorium, is not just another evening of song and dance. As a showcase for local talent, it is this year's fund-raiser for the Orange County branch of the Holiday Project, a nonprofit organization dedicated to brightening the holiday season for the community's shut-ins.

Dependent on donations, the Orange County chapter stages one major project annually to raise the money for the holiday gifts. Previous fund-raisers have included Halloween balls, raffles and a chili cook-off at the Irvine Harvest Festival.

The three-hour event is the brainchild of fund-raising chairwoman Joy Young, 42, of Santa Ana. The curtain will go up at 7:30 p.m.

Bruce Penhall, a co-star of the TV series "CHIPS," will preside as master of ceremonies, joined by rock bands Norwegian Wood and the Underdog. Other scheduled performers include the Pier Group, a barbershop quartet; comedians Gene Mitchener and Joe Barry; John Edmonds Gospel Truth; guitarists Mark Allen and Curtis Henry, and the County Line Cloggers.

All entertainers are volunteering their services, Young said. "We're not allowed to pay for any entertainment, so it's strictly volunteer. No one gets paid a nickel for anything. Yet, people are coming out of the woodwork to participate."

Orange Coast College is providing the facilities at a reduced rate, Young said. Other local residents are providing sound and lighting equipment, artwork, decorations and coordination skills.

The Entertainment Extravaganza is a concept that Young had "wanted to do for several years," she said. "I was involved with one for the Hunger Project. When I went to a committee meeting for the Holiday Project, I said I would like to do an entertainment showcase, and they decided it was a perfect fund-raiser."

"I'd like to keep it growing every year," she added. "I've managed to reach people this year who are willing to work to make it a bigger one next year."

Admission is $15, and seating is limited to 300. The proceeds will go directly to purchase gifts and wrapping paper for this year's holiday visits, Young said.

Community organizations and businesses also provide support to the Holiday Project, said Irvine resident Linda Erickson, 31, this year's Orange County chairwoman. "For example, Pacific Mutual's employee community participation organization, Good Guys, has decided to take on the Holiday Project as one of their projects this holiday. They're actually setting up groups to go out on visitations at institutions."

Other businesses choose to donate items, she added. "On Christmas Eve every year, Nordstrom at South Coast Plaza gives us all their poinsettia plants. Sometimes there are over a thousand plants donated. We then take the plants with us on our Christmas visits to give as gifts."

The Holiday Project began in San Francisco in 1971, when eight people delivered gifts to hospitals on Christmas Day. The program expanded in 1975 to include Hanukkah. In 1980, when the group was chartered as the Holiday Project, more than 30,000 volunteers in 76 cities distributed gifts to 143,000 people.

Today, the project encompasses more than 125 communities, raising more than $3 million, Young said. "Over 225,000 volunteer participants visit over 1 million people in hospitals, psychiatric facilities, nursing homes, prisons, orphanages and shelters for the homeless."

Orange County joined the Project in 1979, starting with about 150 volunteers, according to regional chairman Jay Churchill, 42, a member of the project since that year. "Last year, we raised around $8,500 and had just under a thousand participants. This year our goal is 1,200 volunteers."

Planning for the area's project begins in August, Erickson said. "Over 15 subcommittees are organized with volunteers filling the role of chairperson for each. Subcommittees include finance, public relations, gift-wrapping manager, gift-wrapping entertainment, community projects and participation. That's just on the local level. There are similar committees on the regional level as well."

Although Erickson has gone on visitations with the project for the past three years, this is her first year in a managerial role, she added. "It's an extremely well-coordinated organization. The people who volunteer their time to make it all possible are extraordinarily dedicated.

"That's reflected in our success in the community," she added. "A lot of facilities say they can't wait for us to return this year."

Volunteers will visit 60 Orange County facilities during the holiday season, Young said. "We'll be visiting Juvenile Hall, hospitals such as Tustin Community Hospital, convalescent homes, board-and-care homes and shelters for battered women and children. We try to expand and add new institutions every year.

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