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ANN CONWAY

Giving and Getting : Disneyland Rewards O.C.'s Top Service Groups

September 29, 1997|ANN CONWAY

A warm handshake was all he'd planned. But when actress Michelle Pfeiffer presented him with Disneyland's VoluntEAR of the Year award, Tim Young not only shook her hand, he bussed her on the temple, gave her a hug and raised a victory fist to the 700 onlookers attending the Anaheim theme park's Community Service Awards ceremony.

What came over him? "She's a volunteer too, a nice lady," a flushed Young said afterward. "And I guess there's a kind of heart-connection between volunteers."

Hugs and handshakes were the order of the evening when Disneyland celebrated the 40th anniversary of its Community Service Awards with a starlight ceremony in the courtyard of Sleeping Beauty's castle.

Awards totaling $400,000 were distributed to representatives of 26 Orange County service organizations at the recent event, which also featured a buffet supper, a fireworks display and appearances by Mickey and Minnie and the gang.

The golden-haired Pfeiffer--in a slate-blue Armani pantsuit, white silk shirt and black boots--handed out the six Anniversary Awards, each worth $40,000.

Those checks went to the Docent Guild of the Bowers Museum of Cultural Art, the Orange County Council of the Boy Scouts of America, the Leukemia Society of America (Tri-County Chapter), La Habra Neighborhood Housing Services Inc., the Shalimar Learning Center and the Boys & Girls Club of Tustin.

"It is truly an honor to be here tonight and have however small a part in recognizing all of you," said Pfeiffer, a former Miss Orange County who stars in Touchstone's new film "A Thousand Acres."

"I grew up in Orange County," she said, flashing her famous smile at the crowd. "And even though my work has taken me away from this community, it's always good to come back home. Thank you very much for your warm welcome."

Pfeiffer, who flew by helicopter from Los Angeles for the event, told guests she respected their work. "I admire you for your passion and tireless efforts to make our community a better place," she said. "Tonight, we're paying tribute to your dedication, commitment and inspiring work."

The annual event has all the tension of an Academy Awards ceremony, said Don Laffoon, director of Stop-Gap theater company for youth--and winner of six past Disneyland Service Awards.

The winners had been notified of their good fortune, but not told how much they'd won. Awards ranged from $4,000 to $40,000. "At Disney, they make you feel like it's a winner, no matter what [the amount]," Laffoon said.

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When the winning organizations were announced, their representatives were escorted to the podium and presented with a check and a gold-framed lithograph of Sleeping Beauty's castle by Texas artist Randy Souders.

Afterward, they posed with Pfeiffer for keepsake photographs.

Among the winners was South Coast Repertory, which received a $4,000 award in the cultural arts category. "This is the first time SCR has won it in 15 years," said Dee Higby, SCR board president. "We're thrilled."

Meeting a famous Hollywood actress was another thrill. "I wanted her to be not so gorgeous," Higby said, laughing. "But she was absolutely gorgeous and equally charming."

Other awards: winning $26,000 each were the Vietnamese Community of Orange County, winner of the Jack B. Lindquist Award (named for the former Disneyland president); and Community Services YMCA, winner of Disneyland's new Creative Partnership Award.

Winning $10,000 each were the St. Joseph Ballet Company, the Mater Dei Special Olympics, the Blind Children's Learning Center, the Pediatric Adolescent Diabetes Research Education Foundation, the Orange County Rescue Mission and the Fullerton Arboretum.

Winners of $4,000 included the Ana-Modjeska Players Inc., the Assistance League of Anaheim, the Orange County Chapter of Childhelp USA, Orange County Ronald McDonald House, the Ebell Club of Anaheim and the Mental Health Assn. of Orange County.

Other $4,000 winners were Meals on Wheels of Anaheim, the Second Harvest Food Bank of Orange County, Anaheim Outdoor Sciences Education Foundation and the Orange County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

Young, 46, of Fullerton won the VoluntEAR of the Year award for his work on behalf of Childhelp USA and Ronald McDonald House.

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