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ANN CONWAY

Lessons in Giving, From 4 of the Best

July 20, 1998|ANN CONWAY

In a twist on award-giving, one generous couple honored another when the YMCA Community Services held its annual John and Donna Crean Reach Out Awards dinner in Newport Beach.

About 200 guests at the Balboa Bay Club watched last week as Donna Crean presented the award to Patti Edwards and husband Jim, president and chief executive officer of Edwards Theatres Circuit.

YMCA Community Services named the award for the Creans to "honor them as they honored others," explained Adrienne Stokols, executive director. "They epitomize what the award stands for--generosity."

In past years, the Creans, of Santa Ana Heights, have donated millions to the local YMCA and other Orange County charities. In turn, they made the decision to honor the Edwardses for their philanthropy and volunteer work.

Before she made the presentation, Donna Crean went onstage to tell guests why she and John Crean--retired founder of Fleetwood Enterprises--give away so much money: "Forty years ago, we joined a church in Anaheim where the pastor said we were supposed to give part of our income back to God," she said. "So we started tithing--giving 10% to charity. As time went along, we did better--so we raised it to 15%, then 20. We now give away half our income.

"Now, I'm not saying that, if you give, you're going to get rich--I have to give John some credit," Crean said of her husband, who was unable to attend. "But you'll feel awfully good if you help other people."

Calling up Patti and Jim Edwards, Donna Crean thanked them for their generosity, making special note of the annual theater passes they donate to charity auctions.

Jim Edwards then praised the Creans, calling them "models of selfless giving."

"We're especially honored to receive this award with their names on it," said Edwards, whose late father, James Edwards Jr., founded the theater chain.

Edwards also praised the volunteer efforts of his wife, an advocate for children who serves on the boards of Childhelp USA and Orangewood Children's Foundation. He also thanked her for "representing the Edwards family in the community and for not only being a mom to our two children but for caring for other children--working so hard to make their lives better," he said.

Addressing the crowd, Patti Edwards said if not for her patient husband and his successful business, she might not have the time to give back to the community. "I'm grateful for the time. . . . I have a lot to give back," she said.

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Gross proceeds of about $85,000 from the benefit--where hamburger mogul Carl Karcher and community activist Peggy Goldwater Clay are also among those who have been honored--will go toward supporting programs offered by YMCA Community Services. "Most people think of the Y as swimming pools, camping trips and fitness centers," Stokols said. "They don't realize the Y has always had a major role in addressing community social problems."

During the dinner, Dorothy Castillo, 43, a former gang member who is program coordinator for the YMCA's United for Success mentoring program, told guests she was "pretty bad--pretty lost" as a teen. "But I found my way," she said. "I wish I'd had somebody to help me prior to my escapades."

During an interview, Castillo said she joined a gang in one of Fullerton's oldest barrios in the '60s because she was tired of being beaten up by kids who felt she didn't belong. "Being in a gang gave me a cheap thrill, a rush, popularity," she said. "In those days, we beat up other kids, threw eggs, water balloons. The idea was to create havoc.

"Now, gang violence is no longer skin-on-skin," she said. "Members don't beat up each other to deal with problems. They do drive-by shootings."

Today, when Castillo counsels gang members, she helps them plan for the future they don't believe they will ever have, she said. "I show them how they're destroying their lives. I tell them they do have a future--that they need to plan for it.

"The biggest reason kids join gangs today is lack of love," she said. "Just love. It's the same with rich or poor kids. If they don't get loving attention when they're being good, they'll find another way to get it--the wrong way."

Information on the YMCA's counseling programs: (714) 549-9622.

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