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Social Circuits

Sage Bidding

September 01, 2002|ANN CONWAY

With items ranging from a private master class with tap dancer Gregory Hines to boxing gloves signed by Sugar Ray Leonard, $110,000 in bids were gaveled-down at an auction for Sage--a child-care center in South-Central Los Angeles.

About 175 guests gathered at Christie's auction house in Beverly Hills for the "Afternoon of Giving" benefit featuring a champagne reception, hors d'oeuvres and live auction.

Founded in 1994, Sage is a before-and after-school center for children ages 5-12 who live in Nickerson Gardens, "the largest housing development west of the Mississippi," said Cathy Tate, center director.

Operated by Crystal Stairs Inc. (a nonprofit provider of child-care services) in collaboration with the Black Women's Forum, Nickerson Gardens Resident Management Corp. and Project Build, Sage gives kids the opportunity to take part in computer classes, math, science, music and dance.

"Sage is about empowerment--giving a community a voice," said Tate. "We work with children to develop their social skills and bring them the enhanced activities that other children get in other places." If not for the care center, the 100 children enrolled would most likely be "going home to empty houses because their parents are working or in school," Tate said. Seventy-five children are on the center's waiting list.

Guests at the auction included Kookie Murray, who credits Sage with providing a safe environment for her family while she studied psychology at Cal State Dominguez. She was able to move out of the housing development five years ago. "Without Sage, I'd still be sitting in Nickerson Gardens," said Murray, who attended the benefit with her children, Kyonna, 19; Reginald, 13; and Kyonta, 12.

A poised Kyonna said the teachers at Sage taught her about self-esteem. "They taught me how to value myself and I became less shy."

Reginald liked the computer games he got to play at the center. "And the help with my homework," he said with a smile.

For Kyonta, Sage was the place where she learned the meaning of the word "respect," she said. "I learned how important it is to be respectful of the teachers, the other kids and myself."

Guests at the Aug. 24 auction included Karen Hill-Scott, a developmental psychologist and educator who co-founded Crystal Stairs with Alice Walker Duff in 1980. "The name of our organization was inspired by a line in the Langston Hughes poem, 'Mother to Son,' " she said. "In it, a mother tells her boy never to give up, to keep on climbing, because, for her, 'Life ain't been no crystal stair.' We want to inspire that never-give-up attitude in our kids."

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The Call of the Wild

Forget the standard Cosmopolitan. At Zoofari, "Congo-politans" and Jungle Juice--a nonalcoholic version of the cocktail classic--were the beverages of choice. They went well with such appetizers as Bongo Bruschetta and Tom-Tom Torta.

The sound of drumming welcomed more than 350 guests to the 10th anniversary dinner dance for the Santa Ana Zoo, where party-goers are just as likely to talk to the animals as they are to one another. Presented by Friends of the Santa Ana Zoo support group, "Drums in Paradise" raised more than $75,000 to upgrade habitats and create new exhibits at the 20-acre zoological garden that is home to more than 200 animals.

Honored at the event were past gala chairs Paige and Jay Kunkle, Debbie and Tom Newmeyer, and Donel and Bill Wiles. "This zoo is a jewel in the back pocket of Orange County," said Debbie Newmeyer, who, inspired by the safari dress code, paired a sleek Dolce & Gabana animal-print skirt with a black top. The Newmeyers have chaired six of the Zoofari galas. "I love the zoo because it's a place where families can come, spend the day, and learn about animal and plant conservation," Debbie said.

Besides watching fire jugglers, getting their fortunes told and schmoozing with a muscular "Tarzan"--"He's wearing next to nothing!" Tom Newmeyer observed--guests toured the zoo, had their mugs snapped with squawking parrots and dined under the stars.

Sandy Pignone was chairwoman.

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Coming Up

* Los Angeles Ronald McDonald House presents the 11th annual Mac Tonight benefit Sept. 14 for its residential facility for families of children undergoing cancer treatment. The event, featuring Big Macs and fries served under glass, will be held at the McDonald's Production Center in the City of Industry. Tickets: $175 per person. Call (323) 644-3000.

* The Museum of Contemporary Art in San Diego has its Monte Carlo gala with the theme "Austin Powers Gets Monte Carlo Mojo" on Sept. 14 at its oceanfront site in La Jolla. Tickets: $500. Call (858) 454-3541, Ext. 121.

* AIDS Services Foundation Orange County has a "World's Fair: Paris" benefit dinner, auction and parade Sept. 14 at the Orange County Fairgrounds in Costa Mesa. Tickets: $125. Call (949) 809-5700.

* Center Theatre Group celebrates its 36th season opening with a gala benefit and performance of "Mamma Mia!" on Sept. 20 at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. Festivities include cocktail reception, dinner and the performance followed by a dessert reception and '70s dance party in the pavilion's Grand Hall. Tickets: $300 and $600. Call (213) 972-7660.

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Information for Social Circuits can be directed to Ann Conway at ann.conway@latimes.com or (800) LATIMES, Ext. 65952.

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