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R S V P / ORANGE COUNTY : Charities Reap What the Harvesters Sow : Supporters of the Food Distribution Center in Orange gather green with a benefit luncheon and an Emporio Armani fall fashion show.

August 29, 1995|KATHRYN BOLD

Although he wasn't present, Italian designer Giorgio Armani lent style--and clothes--to the third annual Harvest Luncheon and Fashion Show to benefit the Food Distribution Center in Orange.

The Harvesters, a support group for the center, was the only charity in the United States to be chosen by Armani for a full runway showing of the Emporio Armani fall/winter men's and women's collection. More than 400 guests paid $75 to attend the recent luncheon at the Four Seasons Hotel in Newport Beach, raising a record-breaking $100,000 in net proceeds for the center.

The Armani Touch

After bidding on items such as facials and St. John jewelry at a silent auction, guests filed into the hotel ballroom decorated in understated Armani style. To add to the room's elegance, Armani loaned quilted, moss-green slipcovers for the chairs.

"They're kind of an industrial Armani look," said Jill Johnson-Tucker, event co-chairwoman.

On each table stood a towering centerpiece made from a tripod of cut branches that balanced a terra-cotta pot filled with ivy, white roses and--in keeping with the harvest theme--fresh vegetables. Landscape architect Ruben Flores created the living sculptures as a gift to the Harvesters.

Guests were served roasted chicken filled with salmon mousse and almond meringue filled with mascarpone cheese and peach puree--a menu that Armani approved.

After lunch, fashions from Emporio Armani at South Coast Plaza, Costa Mesa, took the spotlight. Models with slicked-back hair, including a Veronica Lake look-alike, paraded past in belted jackets, flowing pants and elegant dresses that recalled the feminine '40s.

Sowing the Seeds

One element of the decor that was not Armani's doing was the crates of food surrounding the stage. The boxes represented the 1,300 pounds or 2,600 meals that each guest's $75 ticket proceeds raised for the Food Distribution Center. The center collects food from manufacturers and markets--usually overstock at greatly reduced prices--then distributes it to 282 charities in the county.

The Harvesters, founded in 1993, raised more than $117,000 for the center at its first two luncheons--enough to provide 4 million meals to the hungry.

Johnson-Tucker and Jennifer Van Bergh, event co-chairwoman, got the idea for Harvesters after Johnson-Tucker met with the center's board chairman, John Heffernan, and asked what they could do to help the organization. The pair decided to call on friends and "friends of friends" to hold one fund-raiser a year, Van Bergh said. Their first fashion show exceeded all expectations.

"Our goal was to raise $5,000 the first year. We raised $42,000," Johnson-Tucker said.

The Harvesters remain the center's sole fund-raising support group. Most of the 50 members are professional women in their 30s and early 40s.

Among those attending were Ron Blake, executive director of the Food Distribution Center; Martha Benvenuti; Geniene Boeck; Paula Cole; Kim Crawford; Stephanie Grody; Kristin Heeschen; Jody Johnson; Carol Mays; Alana McKeag; Lucie Moore; Lori Planeta; Sandy Price; Teddie Ray; Sandy Sewell; Ann Smyth; Robert and Peggy Sprague; Judy Steele, and Joyce Tucker.

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