Mega-Donation to Clinic Puts Name in Lights

"I didn't want my name on the clinic; they talked me into it!" said developer Allen Boerner on Friday during a bash tossed by the Lestonnac Free Clinic.

Boerner and his wife, Susan, recently donated $250,000 to the facility in Orange.

"And what do you do for a man who gives you a quarter of a million dollars?" asked Sister Marie Therese, who founded the clinic 10 years ago.

You splash his name across the clinic's new building, that's what.

Boerner, president of Cambio Investments in Fullerton, admitted he hadn't really planned on giving the clinic that much. "But then I went there and saw what Sister was doing for the people--people who looked like they had one set of clothes--and I decided it was something I wanted to really be part of. It's something I can see, something I can feel. Sister Therese is so dedicated. She must work 12 to 14 hours a day."

Hamburger mogul Carl Karcher, who loves to call Sister Therese "the Mother Teresa of Orange County," introduced him to the clinic, Boerner said. "And he is so persuasive. And so is Stan Pawlowski (event co-chair with his wife, Theresa). And so is Sister--the master of all salesmen! I was a dead duck; I didn't have a chance before I started. They're all sweethearts."

About 400 clinic boosters gathered at the Anaheim Hilton and Towers to honor the Boerners and live it up at the Cinco de Mayo party that netted $50,000.

Before dinner, the black-tie crowd--many sporting the optional Mexican attire--sipped margaritas, dipped into guacamole and enjoyed mariachi serenades as they bid on auction items. Among prizes up for bid: dresses topped with beaded and feathered bibs, courtesy of Susan Boerner. "Yes, I'm a fashion designer," Susan said.

And how did it feel to give away a whopping $250,000? "I think it's wonderful to help others," said Susan, who wore a black, Spanish-style cocktail ensemble. "That's the whole point. We have the ability to help the poor. Anybody who has money has that ability."

The clinic serves an average of 4,000 patients annually, said Sister Marie Therese. But her dream is to serve 10,000. "The clinic is a haven of love for Orange County's poorest of the poor. We try to rebuild their ailing spirits and make them humanly alive," she said.

For art's sake: Fine wines and country pates were served up alfresco on Saturday when members of the Orange County Center for Contemporary Art staged a benefit at the Old Dana Point Cafe and Wine Bar.

"Our whole thrust is to help emerging artists in Orange County," said Bardene Allen, director of the nonprofit center in Costa Mesa. "We help them with exhibitions. We show their work. And we teach them how to deal with galleries and museums."

"But membership requires a certain amount of sacrifice," said Eric Strauss, a mixed-media sculptor. Members must pay monthly dues of $40. "But my goal is to teach art at the college level. And to do that, you have to be an artist. You have to build a resume, get into the lane of art commerce. You don't do that by staying home, making little paintings and selling them to friends. You have to get out and find galleries."

Each of the art center's 25 members has a show at the center every year and a half, Allen said. "Right now, we have an affiliate show. Two works from each of our members are on exhibit" through May 19.

Elizabeth Jennings, a photographer who shoots surreal landscapes, became a Center for Contemporary Art member because "it's a marvelous place to network," she said, "to experiment, to get into what's going on in the Los Angeles and Orange County art scene."

For Marcia Holzman, who creates monotypes and acrylic paintings, membership at the center has been a way to get exposure for her work.

"The center is a fine art group--not a commercial one," she said. "I've been a commercial artist. I know what it's like to take directions, do exactly what someone else wants. So it's really nice for me to be able to express my feelings. "

"We may not be promoting ourselves to please the masses," said Chris Gallup, a creator of pop art. "But it's still necessary to organize elements toward having a successful career, even when that success is not monetary."

"We sell very few" works, Allen said. "It's just not our primary goal. We nurture the artist and his get work shown, not sold."

Proceeds from the $20-per-person wine tasting and auction were estimated at $3,000. Also on the scene: Kathleen Kaplan, event chairwoman; Bill Riley, member of the art center board, and Janet Croul, event co-chairwoman.

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