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Benefit Gets Down to Business

February 15, 2001|ANN CONWAY

In a new fund-raising format that's sure to catch on with the 9-to-5 crowd, Families Forward presented a "Wines of the Millennium" event that had guests winding down after work.

The goal: Stage a benefit that's early enough--and sophisticated enough--to appeal to the Orange County professional.

"We wanted to find something that people would enjoy doing after their workday," said Carol Schroeder, who co-chaired the benefit with Judy Jones. After researching the concept with friends and colleagues, Schroeder came up with a $100-per-ticket party plan that helped Families Forward raise $25,000.

Here's the way it worked: Guests, who arrived at 5:30 p.m., got to sample fine wines, dig into hearty appetizers and cruise a silent auction before kicking back to watch a spirited, exhibition-style cooking match between premiere chefs Michael Kang (owner of Five Feet in Laguna Beach) and Alan Greeley (owner of the Golden Truffle in Costa Mesa).

Supporters of Families Forward also had the opportunity to pay $250 to $1,200 to participate in the event. Those who kicked in $750, for example, got to assist the chefs. Others paid $250 each to help judge the food.

Kang, a long-time supporter of Orange County's homeless community, loved the idea of an after-work bash.

"Orange County's business community needs to step up to the bat to help the homeless or it's always going to be a problem," he said.

Because of the recent economic downturn, the problem of homelessness in Orange County is "getting worse," said Margie Wakeham, executive director of Irvine-based Families Forward.

"Businesses are closing, rents are increasing and the cost of living is high," she added, noting that "an estimated 12,000 to 20,000 people in Orange County can be homeless" on any given day.

"These days, people are tending to spend more of their money on housing, so they have less to fall back on when they have an emergency," she said.

Families Forward, formerly known as Irvine Temporary Housing, serves the greater Orange County area, operating 15 emergency housing shelters.

The typical patron of the program: a young mother like the one who recently sought assistance from the organization. "She left home, lost her housing, because of her husband's drug use," Wakeham said. "She couldn't get into a home of her own because she didn't have enough money and had never worked outside the home. Sixty-five percent of those we help are women on their own."

The typical man helped by the organization has lost his job or is suffering from depression, Wakeham said. "It's harder for men to come forward to seek help. But after a little trust-building and support, we can help them get back on their feet."

Information: (949) 552-2727.

Awards Luncheon

Tom and Elizabeth Tierney of Newport Beach received the Giving Is Living Award from the Volunteer Center Orange County on Tuesday during its 25th anniversary "Spirit of Volunteerism" awards luncheon at Disney's Grand Californian Hotel in Anaheim.

Co-sponsored by The Times' Orange County edition, the tribute recognized 110 volunteers for their service to the community and was attended by more than 400 people.

Established in 1958, the Santa Ana center is a leading promoter of Orange County volunteerism and provides educational resources to community organizations. The center is responsible for connecting more than 85,000 volunteers annually to nonprofit agencies needing assistance.

Giving is Living Award recipients include Thomas Riley, Gail and Peter Ochs, Jack Lindquist, Dee and Larry Higby, Judie and George Argyros, Mark and Barbara Johnson, and Susan and Tim Strader.

Center information: (714) 953-5757.

Ann Conway can be reached by phone at (714) 966-5952 or by fax at (714) 966-7790.

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