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| Benefits O.C.

Keeping Youths' Well-Being in Mind

October 12, 2000|PAMELA DIAMOND

The event: Casa Youth Shelter's 21st annual Dinner Auction held Saturday at the Disneyland Hotel in Anaheim.

Classical statuary lent an old-world elegance to the hotel's Grand Ballroom, where 500 guests sipped champagne as they bid on items including fine wines to a Long Beach Grand Prix package. The black-tie gala netted $190,000 for the nonprofit Los Alamitos shelter.

Home away from home: Founded in 1978, Casa Youth Shelter is a temporary home for runaway and homeless youths 12 to 17 years old. The shelter's educational and counseling programs are available for residents and their families.

"They come to the shelter to escape both mental abuse and physical violence," said Luciann Mulhardt, executive director.

Though the shelter offers a safe and nurturing environment, its ultimate goal is family reunification, Mulhardt said. Eighty percent of the children are reconciled with their families.

Quote: "Casa Youth Shelter is very redemptive," said Debbie Tavlin, auction chairwoman. "You can feel it from the kids to the volunteers; it has a way of bringing out the best in everyone."

Helping out: Tom Timmons said he has volunteered at the shelter for more than a decade. "Listening to the kids' stories and finding out how their stay has [positively] impacted [their lives] is what's so compelling to me," he said.

Moving on: Casa graduates often return to the facility to share their success stories. Their experiences give hope to Gene Evans, the shelter's director of development.

"When I first came here, I just wanted to take the kids home with me," she recalled. "These are good kids who have had bad things happen to them and are deserving of a better future."

For information: (714) 995-8601.

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