R S V P / ORANGE COUNTY : Affair of State Aids Alzheimer's Projects

Supporters of the John Douglas French Center for Alzheimer's Disease/Friends of Caregivers started their own political party Sunday--a black-tie gala held at the Richard Nixon Library & Birthplace in Yorba Linda.

Called "A Stately Affair" in honor of its location, the dinner-dance attracted 150 supporters who put aside their political differences and remembered past presidents from both parties.

The $85-per-person gala raised about $25,000 for the organization. The support group offers financial assistance to family members caring for a patient with Alzheimer's disease, a progressive brain disorder that causes memory loss.

State Dinner

Guests assembled in the library's rose garden for a champagne reception, then fanned out to tour the grounds and exhibits. Later they gathered inside the library hall and sat at tables decorated in blue and white--presidential colors.

For dinner, the Anaheim Marriott prepared favorites from previous White House administrations, including: a Nixon family favorite--salad with pineapple citrus dressing; a Reagan-inspired entree of filet of sole stuffed with seafood mousse and filet mignon with peppercorn sauce, and former First Lady Rosalynn Carter's apple tart.

"We didn't want this to be political, so our menu includes choices from both Republican and Democratic presidents," said Keath Lauderdale, event chairman. "After all, we're coming into an election year."

After dinner, guests danced the night away to Barry Cole and his orchestra.

"Choosing a unique location that has a theme makes it easy" to plan a benefit, said Lauderdale, who attended with his wife, Kathie. "Last year we had a fund-raiser at the Cerritos (Center for the) Performing Arts. We're hoping to find our niche. We're a young organization searching for our identity."

Alzheimer's Heavy Toll

Friends of Caregivers, established three years ago by the John Douglas French Center in Los Alamitos, provides families of Alzheimer's patients with money for short-term respite care, in-home care and adult day care.

"Sometimes the families are burned-out and can't cope anymore," said Ferri Kidane, founder and executive director of Friends. "Alzheimer's is a horrendous emotional and financial struggle for families. Patients require constant, around-the-clock attention. Often they are aggressive and sometimes abusive. They no longer resemble the person they once were." Funds are available to families in Los Angeles and Orange counties who apply for grants.

Many Friends supporters have family members who are patients. "My mother has had Alzheimer's for more than 12 years. She's been a patient at the center since it opened," said Melinda Ruddy, president of Friends. "This cause is very near and dear to me. Care is so expensive, and there's no insurance coverage for Alzheimer's. For a couple in their 80s, there's nowhere they can turn."

Other faces in the crowd were Callen Locket, Patricia Kates, Roberta Fratello, Carole and Robert Blum, Johnnie Strohmyer, Alice Jempsa, Walter Bowman and Joel Lowenstein.

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