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David Nelson / Society

Meals-on-Wheels Had to Put Brakes on Attendance at Gala

November 19, 1987|David Nelson

SAN DIEGO — Who would ever guess that so gracious a motto as "None are ever turned away just because they cannot pay" could slip into the twisting fingers of irony?

This slogan belongs to Senior Adult Services, sponsor of the county's Meals-On-Wheels program, which benefited to the tune of more than $100,000 from the 11th annual "Tribute to the Golden Years" on Nov. 11 in the International Ballroom at the San Diego Hilton.

The ironic circumstance--not at all displeasing to Senior Adult Services officials or banquet committee members--was that the Meals-On-Wheels fund-raiser was forced to turn away nearly 100 people who were only too willing to pay $100 apiece for the chance to join in applauding Police Chief Bill Kolender and his wife, Lois, as the organization's Couple of the Year. More than 700 attended.

At the center of this milling maelstrom of formally dressed well-wishers were the Kolenders, who served as chairmen of last year's banquet and seemed not the least dazed by the congratulations that showered down on their shoulders like ticker tape in a Broadway parade.

"This is a good end to a day that started on shaky ground," said Lois Kolender. "It's been a very eventful day that started at 9 a.m. when the co-producer of '60 Minutes' came to our house." (A crew for the CBS investigative news program was in San Diego filming a story on the Sagon Penn case.)

To the running joke of the cocktail hour--that the couple had accepted the honor so they could get Meals-On-Wheels, which primarily benefits the elderly, for free, Bill Kolender responded, "I'm only that old on the inside."

Many Use Service

Although the Kolenders are unlikely to become Meals-On-Wheels clients, 550 county residents do benefit from the service, which delivers a hot lunch and cold supper to people unable to prepare proper meals for themselves.

According to Senior Adult Services, the "average" client is an 81-year-old widow of limited income who lives alone, although the youngest clients are in their 20s and a few are centenarians. The daily cost of providing the Meals-On-Wheels service is $7.50 per client, and subscribers are asked to pay $5 per day; those who cannot afford this amount pay less or, in some cases, nothing. Hence the organization's motto.

Agency board President Priscilla Simms said that the local meals program is one of the few in the country that does not accept federal funds.

"We're completely privately funded," Simms said, explaining that donations and the annual banquet keep the program in operation. "Tonight's turnout says to me that this is a sharing and caring community that wants to do what it can to help seniors."

Gala chairmen Tawfiq and Richel Khoury arranged for a dinner of roast tenderloin of beef and white chocolate mousse in raspberry sauce that followed Bishop Leo T. Maher's invocation. The ensuing speeches left plenty of time for leisurely dining, as well as for dancing to the Danny Hale Orchestra.

Among the speakers were Senior Adult Services Executive Director Barbara Bright; Helen Copley, publisher of the San Diego Union and Tribune, who presented the "Couple of the Year" award to the Kolenders, and County Supervisor Brian Bilbray, who presented the couple a county resolution written in their honor. Ron Reina served as master of ceremonies.

The guest list included past banquet honorees, including Charlotte and S. Falck Nielsen, Anne and Michael Ibs Gonzalez, Evelyn and George Scott, and Amy and Brute Krulak. Among other guests were Councilman-elect Ron Roberts and his wife, Helene; Councilwoman Abbe Wolfsheimer; Jeanne Brace; Carol and Mike Alessio; Mary and Bruce Hazard; Jane and John Murphy; Jane and Herb Stoecklein, and Marvia and Clair Burgener.

Among committee members were Betty Tharp, Junko and Larry Cushman, Alice Zukor, Marge O'Donnell, Polly and Lawrence Foster, James Frampton, Alan Bonine, Tommi and Bob Adelizzi, Jean and Al Anderson, Norma and Sam Assam, and Florence and Sanford Goodkin.

Linda Smith and the sizable committee that helped her mount the premier MEND (Mothers Embracing Nuclear Disarmament) Ball at the Sheraton Harbor Island's Champagne Ballroom looked cool and calm Friday despite all the little difficulties and near-disasters that normally attend a first-time fund-raiser.

The one really nasty shock of the day came when the driver dispatched to the airport to fetch New York band leader Peter Duchin returned with an empty limousine. Duchin turned up on the next flight, however, his practiced fingers eager to test the keyboard of the special piano that had been provided him.

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