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Ann Conway

New Orleans-Style Affair Helps Mentally Ill

September 24, 1987|ANN CONWAY

Ramona Schneider has a message she would like to scream from a mountain top: "Mental illness is devastating not only to the person affected but to the entire family. And the need to house the mentally ill is dire."

Schneider, appointed by Gov. George Deukmejian to serve on the California Council on Mental Health, was among 300 people who gathered Sunday to raise funds for Homes Inc., a nonprofit corporation that operates Orange County residences for the recovering mentally ill.

Like other guests at the garden party that marked the opening of the new Dana Point Resort Hotel, Schneider--president of the Homes Inc. board--had personal reasons for wanting to serve the mentally ill. "I have a brother with schizophrenia who lives in a board-and-care home," she said. "He's working desperately to make it in the world."

Each of the four homes sponsored by the corporation houses six adults. By providing affordable housing with links to appropriate support programs, the corporation seeks to help its residents live independently in the community.

"Most of our residents are in their 20s," said Jean Liechty, co-chairwoman of the Homes honorary advisory board. "They are young people, who, for one reason or another, have had emotional problems. Almost all have been hospitalized and are on some kind of medication. They need extra help."

Her son resides in one of the homes, Liechty said. "And I'm very proud of him. To live in a home, a resident must pay $225 per month rent and either go to school or work 20 hours per week. And he must do all of his own cooking, shopping and laundry and save $50 weekly for the day when he goes out on his own. Residents usually stay for one year."

While guests, who paid $150 per couple to attend the New Orleans-style affair, sipped mint juleps and hurricanes and dined on jambalaya around the resort's sapphire pool, they were serenaded by the South Market Street Jazz Band.

Net proceeds of $25,000 will be used to help pay mortgages on the homes, Liechty said.

Judie and George Argyros were honorary chairmen. Emma Jane Riley (co-chairwoman with Liechty of the Homes honorary advisory board) and Floss Schumacher, chaired the steering committee. Assisting were Eleanor Burg, Susan DeSantis, Susan Hinman, Liechty, Lorraine Lippold, Marjorie Lockhart, Marie McNabola, Ann Presta, Schneider, Lois Stovall and Nancy Weir.

Jambalaya was also on the menu Sunday night at "The Great Catalogue Caper," a benefit at Neiman-Marcus in Newport Beach that grossed about $95,000 for the Orange County chapter of the American Diabetes Assn.

With an "All That Jazz" theme, 330 members of the black-tie-and-brocade brigade dined grandly on fresh oysters (using those elegant little forks), fist-size shrimp, jambalaya and dirty rice after they had manned the escalators in a dizzying search for prizes.

During cocktails--served amid spotless showcases that housed jewels, parfums, bags and other delights--Neiman-Marcus manager Gayle Dvorak explained how the Catalogue Caper (so dubbed to honor Neiman-Marcus' pricey Christmas Catalogue) worked: "When guests arrive, they're given a clue which takes them to different departments. After they solve the clue, they get to draw for another clue, which may turn out to be a prize. If they win a prize, they're through, and they get to sit down and rest."

At last year's event, a woman hid her high heels under Dvorak's ball gown so she could chase around the store. "And a man came in black-tie and tennis shoes," said Dvorak, breathtaking in silver-spangled red silk.

This year--with some women toting tennis shoes and dressy flats--they came early, pressing their powdered noses against the tony department store's locked doors 15 minutes before the dash-bash began. "This is the only Orange County affair I can think of where guests come early, " said chapter director Shirley Corwin, gowned in a petal-pink slink. "People love this event. Unfortunately, as director, I don't get to play the game. But, it's fun to stand around the (prize) winner's circle. Everybody gets so excited."

Sandi Rosenblatt, chairwoman of the event for three consecutive years, made the couture creation she wore to the affair--a salmon-shaded gown of Swiss cotton and French lace.

She has chaired the $175-per-person event since it was introduced to Orange County because "it takes that long to get it together, " she said. "I enjoy it. And the committee is fabulous."

Sandi's husband, Dr. Sidney Rosenblatt--an endocrinologist--is president of the Diabetes Assn.'s Orange County chapter. "Diabetes research is moving at such a rapid pace," he said, "that I hope by the time we have Catalogue Caper No. 15 or 16, we'll have started to see cures for diabetes rather than just management of patients."

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