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Elite Fund-Raising Group Honors Couple’s Efforts

Banker Kim Fletcher and his wife, Marilyn, became the second couple to receive the Alexis de Tocqueville Society Award--a crystal sculpture that depicts a closely gathered family--at the society’s annual dinner, given Tuesday at the University Club.

Doris and Dirk Broekema Jr. chaired the second annual dinner for the local branch of the national De Tocqueville Society, a fund-raising arm of the United Way that requires a minimum $10,000 donation for membership.

Alexis de Tocqueville, a French writer and politician, traveled in the United States in 1831 and later published his observations in the book “Democracy in America,” which remains widely regarded as one of the more penetrating studies of the young republic.

De Tocqueville’s admiration for “the spirit of voluntary association and voluntary effort for the common good” (which he probably did not expect would develop into the webs of hundreds of fund-raising committees now found in every major city), led the United Way to choose his name when it founded the society in 1972 to recognize individuals who have rendered outstanding volunteer service.

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The Fletchers, honored for volunteer work with several dozen organizations, helped found the local branch of the society.

“The Fletchers’ participation in the Alexis de Tocqueville Society has had a catalytic effect on our efforts to expand giving in San Diego County,” said Joe Bear, current board chairman of the United Way.

The society counted a membership of 30 when the black-tie event commenced but had added two new recruits before the conclusion of the cocktail reception. “We hope to keep new members coming in,” said Dirk Broekema, who called the evening a “thank you” to the group. “The United Way is probably the best way to give to the community because it serves so many agencies.”

During breaks from the formalities, guests sat down--at tables set with delicate arrangements of pale roses and stargazer lilies--to an elaborate dinner of grilled quail salad with raspberry-fig dressing, stuffed veal loin and apple-pecan crepes. But the formalities were the draw, notably the presentation of the award to the Fletchers by Sid and Jenny Craig, whose $1-million contribution to United Way in 1990 made them members of the national Tocqueville Society Million Dollar Round Table.

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“The goal of the society is to help the entire community come together, to create a nurturing, caring community and family environment in which every child’s needs are met,” said Jenny Craig. “We want to build a community in which no one will encounter obstacles to their own self-fulfillment.”

While top honors went to the Fletchers, nearly everyone received something. Copies of “Democracy in America” were presented to new members Malin Burnham and Sami Bandak (whose own major annual gala for several local charities, “Coming Together,” will be Nov. 23 and will be attended by Bill Aramony, president of the United Way of America). Other members of the society received calligraphy scrolls of the Chinese pictograph for “ocean,” a word chosen, according to John Liarakos of the local United Way, “because the ocean captures the depth of caring of the individuals who support the society.”

The guest list included Bob and Catherine Goldsmith; Brian and Jody Fletcher; Judson and Rachel Grosvenor; Ernest and Jean Hahn; Paul and Jinx Ecke; Robert and Fredericka Driver; Joseph and Ingrid Hibben; Doug and Betsy Manchester; Joan Gregg Palmer; Yolanda Walther-Meade with Roberto de la Madrid; David Welborn and Anne Hunter-Welborn; Larry Lawrence; Bernard and Ann Lewis, and Tom and Teri Jensen.

LA JOLLA--After the Benny Hollman Orchestra yielded to the Olympians, white handkerchiefs appeared from breast pockets and purses, and dancers linked hands to kick and whirl through the syrtaki , the psamiko , the kalamatiano and other Greek folk dances, some of whose steps already were familiar when Homer set Ulysses adrift on the wine-dark sea.

Most gala fund-raisers benefit a specific institution or cause, but Saturday’s Hellenic Ball ’91, given Saturday at the La Jolla Marriott for about 200 guests, had as its stated goal nothing less than the preservation of Western Civilization. The sponsoring Hellenic Cultural Society of San Diego plans to pursue that goal through the construction of the proposed Hellenic Cultural Center, for which the ball was expected to raise in excess of $10,000.

From 1966 through 1982, Hellenic balls were an annual feature on the San Diego calendar. According to cultural society President George Koulaxes, the event went on hiatus when the funds accumulated through the years were deemed insufficient to begin construction of a center of appropriate size and appointments.

“Tonight puts us back on the road to completing the center,” said Koulaxes. “We have dedicated ourselves to build a formidable center of anything from 20,000 to 50,000 square feet, with theaters, dance, art and music studios, a library and a museum.”

In a message printed in the program, Koulaxes clearly stated his concern that “the vast body of knowledge that was produced by the Hellenes . . . will once again become an integral part of the education of America’s youth.” He added his fear that multiculturalism will supplant education in the cultures of Western Europeans, and concluded, “We cannot let this happen!”

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It wasn’t necessary to be Greek to attend--although prior knowledge of Greek dance steps helped when the Olympians brought out their bazoukis.

“Tonight is Hellenic rather than Greek,” said Helen Mellos, who co-chaired the ball with Carol Vassiliadis. “To be here, you just need to be a lover of Hellenism.”

The 200 philhellenes were fed a dinner of beef filet, stuffed chicken breast and orange Bavarian cream, at tables decorated with cast figures of Pegasus, the winged horse who carried Bellerophon to victory over the monster Chimaera. The Pegasus motif bore out the event’s formal theme of “Golden Memories . . . on the Wings of a Dream,” which Mellos said expressed the desire that the revived ball “would carry the Hellenic Cultural Society into the future.”

The guest list included George Zois, consul general of Greece, and Andreas Kyprianidis, consul general of the Republic of Cyprus. Among others were George and Mary Marinos, Alexander and Christine Cremidan, Nicholas and Penny Alexander, Paul and Alexia Anas, James and Diane Marinos, Gail Burnett, Charles and Athena May, Haley and Vicki Rogers, Catherine Panos, Laki Vassiliadis, James Mellos, and Steve Aposperis, who founded the event and thus is known today as the “George Washington of the Hellenic Ball.”


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