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R S V P / ORANGE COUNTY : Harvest of Hope for Food Center Charity

November 16, 1994|KATHRYN BOLD

The second annual Harvest Luncheon and Fashion Show recently yielded a bumper crop of donations for the Food Distribution Center.

Thanks to a sellout crowd of 425 guests and generous underwriting, the Harvesters netted more than $55,000 for the center, which supplies food to Orange County charities at minimal cost. The $75-per-person luncheon, which included a showing of the St. John 1995 cruise collection, took place at the Four Seasons Hotel in Newport Beach.

Seasonal Fare

"This is a group of mostly professional women from all areas. We have doctors, lawyers, accountants, you name it," said Jill Johnson-Tucker, co-founder of Harvesters.

With an eye toward their guests' busy schedules, organizers offered a well-timed, activity-packed luncheon and show staged by Saks Fifth Avenue that had many women back in their offices by midafternoon.

After a brief silent auction, guests were ushered into the ballroom that had been decorated in a harvest theme. At each table stood towering topiaries adorned with pine cones, miniature pumpkins, cranberries, evergreen and other fruits and vegetables.

A cornucopia of food quickly followed, with waiters serving such seasonal fare as spicy corn chowder with smoked pheasant served over a puff pastry oak leaf, swordfish medallions and basil mashed potatoes, and apple tarts with caramel sauce.

Saks followed with a fast-paced showing of the St. John collection, which featured models sporting 85 different outfits in less than 45 minutes.

Grass Roots Campaign

Johnson-Tucker and Jennifer Van Bergh founded the Harvesters in 1993 as a support group for the Food Distribution Center, which provides food for 277 local charities. Word of the first luncheon spread mainly by word of mouth:

"We called 50 of our friends and they called their friends," Van Bergh said. "Every person we asked joined."

For the group's 50 members, being able to contribute to the community without giving up a lot of precious time has been a winning formula.

"We don't make a lot of demands on their time. We just try to make as much money as possible with this one event," Johnson-Tucker said.

The food center collects food from grocery stores, manufacturers, government surplus and food drives and sells it for minimal cost (about 6 cents per pound) to the charities. Most of the food would otherwise be thrown out due to overstocking, damaged packaging or manufacturing errors.

"For every dollar we collect we provide 35 meals," said Ron Blake, director of the center.

Proceeds from the luncheon will provide 1,980,000 meals.

"A lot of people don't know there's hunger" in an affluent area like Orange County, said Judy Steele, luncheon committee member. "But feeding the hungry is a major, major problem." An estimated 16% of the local population is at risk of hunger.

Other faces in the crowd were Susan Orth, Sandy Sewell, Sandy Fainbarg, Carol Mays, Bonnie Kremer, Terry Callahan, Debbi Elliott, Stephanie Grody, Paula Cole, Allison Kearns and Kristin Heeschen.

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