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ANN CONWAY

Scouts' Honor : Helping Hands Pause for Applause When Youth Group Bestows Awards

September 22, 1997|ANN CONWAY

It's heady stuff, being honored at a charity benefit.

Hundreds gather to recognize your accomplishments. A film tribute memorializes your life. A keepsake program is splashed with congratulatory messages and sentimental photographs of you and your family.

Then there's that intoxicating "podium moment" when you step up to receive The Award. Roaring applause. Squeals from family and friends.

An emotional rush? Sure. But with it, a responsibility.

When Dick Goodspeed--president and chief operating officer of Vons--received the Good Scout Award for community service before 800 people at the Disneyland Hotel in Anaheim recently, he'd already agreed to chair next year's luncheon for the Boy Scouts of America, Orange County Council.

Like many nonprofit organizations, the Boy Scouts of America uses award ceremonies to attract new blood and earn big bucks. Net proceeds from Friday's luncheon: a whopping $225,000.

"We have it down to a science," says Brett Beck, council spokesman. Annually, the council stages three Good Scout Award luncheons, each honoring a leader in either the high tech, construction or food and beverage industry.

"If you're selected for the award, you agree to be the chair for next year's luncheon in your industry," he says. "The chairman is asked to put the steering committee together . . . and that's crucial. Everyone on the steering committee is asked to buy a [program] ad and a table--a $4,000 contribution. In forming that committee, the chairman helps us get a head start on the dollars we raise."

When Jack Brown, president and CEO of Stater Bros.--last year's award winner, this year's luncheon chairman--brought his 32-member committee together for their first meeting, they'd already pledged $120,000.

"It was pretty amazing," Beck says. "They were already halfway to their goal."

Says Brown, once a Boy Scout: "The luncheons are a tradition that I think probably reflect what Scouting is about--helping others. I was thrilled to receive the award and at the same time excited about the chance to make Goodspeed's luncheon even greater than my own."

The award luncheons serve the council in many ways, says Devon Dougherty, director of financial services. "They not only honor an individual and raise funds; they let people know what Scouting is doing in the community.

"We serve more than 94,000 young men and women across Orange County with an annual budget of $4.5 million," he says.

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Philanthropists such as Mark Johnson of North Tustin and Patti Edwards of Newport Beach frequently receive requests to be honored at charity benefits.

They don't always accept.

It depends on the organization's motive, says Edwards, wife of movie theater scion James Edwards III. "If they want to honor you for making a difference, that's great," says Edwards, whose trophies include the Heroine Award from United Way of Orange County.

"I would only want to be honored in that manner. If they're honoring you because they hope to get [a donation] out of you, that's not so great," she says. "I already support the causes I care about. There are lots of worthwhile organizations, but you can't be an advocate for all of them. I'd have to feel I deserved the honor and would want to support the cause."

Having been honored about six times in recent years, Johnson--chairman of the Orange County Performing Arts Center--has come to understand that there is a "whole protocol, an understanding, for how this is done," he says.

"If a person has not been involved in fund-raising development, and they get a phone call where they are asked to be honored, it can be very flattering.

"But it can also be very misleading. Initially, you believe it's only about being honored, but it's not," he says. "It's about identifying potential attendees and donors for major fund-raisers."

This can be well and good if it is an organization the potential honoree believes in, Johnson says. "When the Freedoms Foundation of Valley Forge honored me last year, that was something for which I had a passion," he says.

"Recently, I got a request to be honored by an organization that I know nothing about. Knowing how the process works, I said I was sorry, I wasn't in a position to do that right now.

"The reason was simple: I'm not giving my list of 450 [friends and business associates] to every organization because I don't want to put them under that kind of pressure."

Receiving an award can be "very touching and poignant," says Johnson, who has been honored by Olive Crest Treatment Center, the YMCA, Pacific Symphony and Opera Pacific, among others. "I appreciate it not so much for myself, but for the sense of accomplishment in knowing that, through my involvement, the organization is going to achieve what it is trying to do.

"Those of us who accept awards don't do it because we need strokes from the community," Johnson says. "We do it to support the organizations that are of value and importance to the people of the community."

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