‘Fantasy,’ Teamwork Pays Off for Children’s Home Groups

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Teamwork pays. In fact, when two auxiliaries of the Children’s Home Society pooled their efforts for a “Romantic Fantasy” brunch and fashion show at Corona del Mar’s Five Crowns restaurant last week, the charity added an estimated $5,600 to its coffers.

Neither auxiliary--Las Brizas del Mar of Fountain Valley and Tiara de Ninos of Huntington Beach--had ever staged such an event before. But on Valentine’s Day, the groups filled the restaurant to overflowing.

“We hadn’t planned to use the restaurant’s gardens,” said Dorothy Fitzgerald, director of volunteers for the Orange County region, who counted 250 guests. “We have all the people the restaurant could hold. We had to turn some away.”


Fitzgerald said that proceeds will help the society’s programs, which include adoption and foster care services as well as public education, child care and expectant parent counseling. Fitzgerald said the child-care information hot line, reached by dialing the letters in KIDCARE (543-2273), is probably the society’s most active service. By calling the hot line, parents receive advice on choosing a child-care center and information about subsidized child care.

“We’ve averaged 2,900 calls a month since Aug. 1,” she said.

Increasing Need

Diane Stockton, a volunteer community education coordinator, added that the need for child care has increased substantially in recent years. According to the United Way of Orange County, 22% of the county’s children lived in single-parent households in 1984.

Stockton’s focus, however, is on adoption services. She said few young people wish to give their children up for adoption. “They view adoption as a throwaway. We’re trying to teach them that adoption is a loving choice. It is often the best choice for their child.”

The brunch marked the 20th anniversary for both auxiliaries. “So many of us met when when we were young mothers,” Fitzgerald said.

These days, some of the members’ offspring--including event co-chairman Diane Galvin’s daughter Stacey and her niece Melissa Tanney--attend auxiliary functions. Jean Kopriva’s daughter Allison and Della Estes’ daughter Josie also joined their mothers on Saturday.

Although the fashions from Apropos in Newport Beach had an exotic range, the show itself was an informal one. Said Barbara Caparelli, president of Las Brizas del Mar: “We wanted the models to wander so that guests would feel more a part of the fashion show.”


Tiara de Ninos president Judy Cassity’s job was to announce the show.

Event co-chairman Ellie Gajewski pointed out volunteer Peggy Homan, who sat beside the door, grabbing bites of champagne chicken while awaiting late arrivals. “This is a true volunteer: someone who will work, spend her time, spend her money and have her luncheon at the door.”

San Juan Capistrano’s Arthur and Gaye Birtcher were hosts for a book-signing party recently to benefit the city’s South County Community Clinic Auxiliary. The book was “Getting Through the Going Through Stage” by Robert A. Schuller, 32, son of television evangelist Rev. Robert H. Schuller.

The community clinic provides services to people who can’t afford medical fees, said auxiliary member Karen Voss. “Somebody’s got to pay, so we formed an auxiliary to raise funds,” she said, adding that last year the group amassed $70,000 through its fund-raising programs.

Gaye Birtcher said she founded the auxiliary because two years ago she sensed that her husband, Arthur, chairman of the clinic’s board, could use some assistance.

Reaching to Friends

“I’d come home from my other meetings all fired up about how successful we’d been (in work with other charities) and see that my husband would be struggling with the clinic. I realized that I could help by reaching out to my friends and to other people in the community,” she said.

Arthur Birtcher said a tremendous need exists for the clinic. “We have homeless people living right here who need medical care. We help secretaries and store clerks who fall in that medical loophole--they don’t qualify for Medicare and they can’t afford a $100 doctor’s visit.”


Birtcher said new leadership has revitalized the clinic in recent years. It now has 50 volunteers, including physicians, nurses, lab technicians and others to provide medical, psychological and social services to anyone considered medically poor.

For the occasion, the Birtchers opened their home-in-progress at “Rancho de Dios,” the family compound containing three houses and a private chapel for the multi-generational family of commercial builders. (Birtcher is among the largest developers of commercial real estate in the United States.)

“We’ve been entertaining here for two years, ever since the roof was put on,” said Gaye Birtcher, explaining that although the house still won’t be habitable for several months, the couple have been giving receptions during its construction. As guests sipped wine and sampled hors d’oeuvres, Gaye encouraged informal tours of the partially decorated rooms.

Much to See

Although several doors and floors still remained unfinished, there was plenty to peruse--a 17th-Century copper shield from Normandy, depicting the expulsion of Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden; a carved wooden panel from Brittany with religious symbols to ward away evil spirits, and original bath faucets from the Orient Express, the train that once sped wealthy travelers from Paris to Istanbul.

At $15 per person or $25 per couple, an estimated 175 people lined up for their autographed copies of Schuller’s book. Much of the talk centered around the book’s unusual title, which refers to the various stages of life.

One guest, Jeff Thomas, asked Schuller to address a copy to his wife, Karen. “She does more going-through than I do,” Thomas said.


Schuller, who serves on the clinic’s board, is the founding pastor of the Rancho Capistrano Community Church and Renewal Center. The fund-raiser netted $2,000 for the clinic.