What's in a Name?
The Assistance League of Santa Ana hosted its annual "Christmas Tree Celebration" on Saturday, drawing 275 guests at $125 each to the Atrium office building in Irvine. As in years gone by, the party featured good food and fine company--but, breaking tradition, no Christmas trees .
"We decided to keep it simple," said Daphne Sheffield, who co-chaired the tannenbaum-free gala with Chris Otoupalik.
Instead of focusing on firry party decor, the group found a sponsor for one tree, which was decorated and sent to the Bartlett Center, a convalescent facility at Western Medical Center-Santa Ana.
The Spirit of the Night
To this unpretentious group, "black-tie optional" meant everything from guest Hugh Galt's plaid kilt to league president Susie Hurlbut's comfortable black slacks. Decorations in the building's cavernous atrium were minimal. And party planners even kept their cool when the dance band was a no-show: They just sent staffers out to round up a mariachi band from the streets of Santa Ana.
The key to this benefit wasn't see-and-be-seen, or who's-wear-ing-what, or any other status obsession. The theme was giving. Guests brought wrapped packages and placed them in a sleigh near the door--gifts that will be distributed in the coming weeks to elderly shut-ins in Santa Ana.
As for the estimated $35,000 net proceeds, much of it will be used to help needy children.
"One of the things we do is clothe Santa Ana schoolchildren," said Hurlbut, who directs the league's programs. "This year a really frightening thing happened. The school system started sending us a lot of children that are not seeing well. They called and asked if we could also provide glasses (as well as school clothes, shoes, jackets and hygiene kits). How could we say no?"
Since September, she said, the league has provided about 70 kids with eye tests and glasses. "That has really wiped out our budget."
Among those digging into filet mignon dinners and dancing to the mariachi ballads were Claire and Mac Burt, Molly Forgy and Ralph Blower, Zana Fields, Dee Maxon, Linda Somerndike, Nadine Hall and Sharlene Rauch.
Asked about her personal Christmas tree celebration--the one she planned for her own hearth in Tustin--co-chair Sheffield beamed. "I go crazy! I love it! I love it! Every year I get new ornaments--every year I have a new color scheme! Christmas is the best time in my house!"