Friends and supporters of the Mental Health Assn. of Orange County met Saturday for a gourmet dinner and auction at the Four Seasons Hotel in Newport Beach. The event raised $36,000 for practical assistance and counseling services for the mentally ill homeless and other "psychiatrically impaired" low-income locals.
The group calls its annual party a "Wine and Travel Auction," and this year's invitation--designed to look like a U.S. passport--was a ticket to ride. For $100 per person, guests cruised through a champagne reception and silent auction bidding, an elegant dinner of shrimp ravioli with sun-dried tomatoes and roast chicken with black truffle sauce, and a live auction followed by dancing to The Home Savings Band of America. (Any guess who sponsored the music?) True to the evening's billing, the 150 auction items included cases of premium wines and more than two dozen weekend getaways. The top draw was a London trip for two, nabbed by Andrea and Mike Goode for $6,000 in the after-dinner live auction.
Although the sumptuous surroundings and fancy food were nice extras, the reason for the fund-raiser was clear to all those attending. In fact, it was right there on the invitations: An asterisk by the ticket price led to a footnote reading, "Actual ticket value per person is $43. Contribution to MHA is $57."
The 32-year-old nonprofit organization sponsors direct aid and client advocacy programs aimed at improving the day-to-day existence of the mentally ill homeless. As guests learned from a 15-minute video shown before dinner, recent studies have indicated that "up to 50% of the homeless suffer from some clearly defined psychiatric disorder," such as manic-depression or schizophrenia.
Programs benefiting from the evening include the Lighthouse, MHA's daytime shelter in Santa Ana, which provides food, clothing, laundry and shower facilities, vocational rehabilitation and skills training sessions; a countywide network of self-help groups; community education programs; and civil rights, residential and legislative advocacy programs.
Mike Bouchard, homeless programs coordinator, said he's seen a "definite increase" in numbers of clients at the shelter in the two years he has worked with MHA.
"Part of the problem is there's been a lot of cuts" from federal, state and local budgets, Bouchard said, "but I think it's also that more people are willing to seek help."
The dinner party was chaired by Gene Andres. Orange County Supervisor Thomas F. Riley was honorary chairman of the event. Among guests were John Garrett, executive director of MHA, and his wife, Celinda; Monte Buchsbaum, head of the UC Irvine Brain Imaging Department; Claire and Mac Burt; Sandy and Allan Fainbarg; Caroll Yap and John Dedischew; Marilyn and John Coll, and Ellen Bak Gaughan and Mark Gaughan.