Saying that her sister Nicole Brown Simpson has "given me the inspiration to make a difference," Tanya Brown showed up at an auction Sunday to benefit Human Options, a Laguna Beach shelter for battered women.
Brown, 25, the youngest of Nicole's sisters, joined about 350 guests at Gustaf Anders Restaurant in Santa Ana for "Starry, Starry Night," a Victorian high tea and auction. The $45-per-person benefit was expected to net $45,000 for Human Options.
Shelter Finds a New Ally
Brown, dressed in a red pantsuit, mingled with other guests around tables filled with fancy gift baskets.
She first became interested in supporting Human Options several months ago after attending a luncheon where one of the shelter's clients spoke. Later she visited the shelter:
"These women go through such a hard time, but there was such happiness and joy," she said.
Brown, a resident of Monarch Beach, said her sister's violent death has inspired her and other family members to become more active in supporting shelters for battered women.
"When you become educated about abuse, and knowing your family member was (abused), you're not going to sit back and watch this happen," she said. "You have to donate time; you have to donate your heart.
"It's sad to think my sister had to die for me to realize this happens. We'll do what we can to help other shelters."
Brown's support (she served on the auction committee) has been an asset to Human Options, said Linda Enochs, event co-chairwoman.
"It's making it more possible for us to have a platform on which to speak," she said.
Families in Crisis
Like most abuse victims, her name won't be broadcast in the media. Yet a red-haired woman who preferred to be identified only as Debe also had a story to tell about abuse. She graduated from Human Options in March and is now the shelter's house manager.
Debe, who is studying to be a nurse, said the shelter helped her regain her self-esteem.
"When you first come to the shelter, you're beaten down so low, they'd have to dig a hole in the ground to find you," she said. "You've been hospitalized, and often your children have been, too."
During the holiday season, she's especially conscious of abuse that occurs behind closed doors. "People look like they're having a happy Christmas, but they're dealing with a lot of trouble," she said.
A Way Out
Human Options operates an emergency shelter in Laguna Beach and a Second Step program that provides housing for six to 12 months for women and their children. The agency has just broken ground for a new shelter in Irvine.
This was the shelter's eighth annual auction.
"It's a traditional English high tea with a Swedish twist," said Enochs, referring to the buffet of exotic canapes, some topped with shrimp and caviar, as well as lemon tartlets.
"It's also a good way to get started on your Christmas shopping," she said. Committee members decorated 120 baskets filled with gifts such as sports tickets, dinners and make-overs. The most unusual offering: a fluffy blue parakeet in a bird cage decorated all in pink like Barbie's condo--a modern twist on the proverbial partridge in a pear tree.
Among the guests were: Gay Sutherland, event co-chairwoman; Vivian Clecak, executive director of Human Options; Kathy Bulger-Salter, board president; Lyn Wilder, Judy Price, Robynne Roberts, Rosemary Jones, Diana Gairdner, Cathy Palmer, Robin Kovich, Kristi Lewis, Marlene Marzo, Kathi Shelor, Yvonne Hayes and Susan Jenkins.