Tom and Marilyn Nielsen spent last Thanksgiving at a soup kitchen, and no one who knows the former Irvine Co. president and his wife was a bit surprised.
The Newport Beach couple has been involved in community service, such as serving food to the needy, for nearly 20 years. In recognition, the Orange County Community Foundation presented the Nielsens with the 1999 Friend of Philanthropy award last month.
"Tom and Marilyn Nielsen have been instrumental in the success of the foundation," said Judith Swayne, founder and executive director.
Nielsen is a founding board member of the 10-year-old organization, which this year awarded grants totaling $4.1 million to programs that focus on children and youth, family relationships and community diversity.
The couple also was honored recently by the Orange County Performing Arts Center. Marilyn Nielsen is a founding member of Imagination Celebration, a countywide art and music fair for children. Tom Nielsen is or has been a member of the Orange County Museum of Art, UCI Foundation, United Way of Orange County, St. Joseph Ballet and the Orange County Business Council.
The award means a permanently endowed fund at the community foundation will be set up in their name and the Nielsens will serve as advisors on how the fund is distributed.
To be considered for this column, please send information on the Orange County person being honored along with a photograph to Lynn O'Dell, The Los Angeles Times, 1375 Sunflower Ave., Costa Mesa, CA 92626. (714) 283-5685.