RSVP / ORANGE COUNTY : A Tea That Has Writers Talking : Authors Help Give Olive Crest Benefit a Different Slant


Although they promised to hold “A Traditional Holiday Tea,” members of Olive Crest Town, Gown and Apron added a novel feature to the usual tea-and-scones fare: talks by four Orange County authors.

At its first-ever holiday tea, the new support group for the Olive Crest Abused Children’s Foundation featured writers Earlene Fowler, Elizabeth George, Maxine O’Callaghan and T. Jefferson Parker at the Center Club in Costa Mesa on Monday.

The $45-per-person event drew a sellout crowd of more than 200 and was expected to net about $10,000 for the foundation.


Tea and Company

“We wanted this event to be a little different,” said Barbara Steinberg, event co-chairwoman. “We’re all tired of going to the same lunches, the same dinners.”

Guests were greeted at the door by the musical group Vocal Magic, whose members wore Dickens-style costumes and performed holiday carols.

Inside the dining room, harpist Julie Earnhart played holiday melodies while guests bid on items at a silent auction and sipped champagne. They later sat at tables surrounded by glowing Christmas trees and garlands, where they were served Earl Grey and mango tea and assorted finger sandwiches, scones and sweets.

After tea, each author was invited to the podium to discuss how and why they started writing. While the other writers described childhoods spent penning poems and stories that eventually led to successful writing careers, Fowler had a different reason for becoming a novelist:

“I became a professional writer to escape doing story-tell hour at the library,” said Fowler, author of the Benni Harper mystery series. Now she doesn’t mind doing public speaking--”as long as I don’t have to do any animal sounds,” she said.

Donning Their Aprons

Town, Gown and Apron was formed in July, 1993, by Diane Antoci to increase public awareness of the Olive Crest Abused Children’s Foundation and to help meet the needs of children in the organization’s care. The word “apron” was added to the group’s title because the 40 members volunteer for hands-on work.


“We needed help in the homes. The children needed to see there are a lot of people out there who care,” said Lois Verleur, who co-founded Olive Crest with her husband, Donald, 22 years ago.

Based in Anaheim, Olive Crest operates more than 20 group homes and a certified foster family agency serving Orange, Los Angeles, Riverside and San Diego counties. The programs provide 24-hour care and treatment.

“These children have multiple problems. It’s not just baby-sitting,” Verleur said.

Faces in the crowd included: event co-chairwoman Angela Hartfelder, Holly German, Donna Horton, Dorothy Fitzgerald, Andrea Gullickson, Ruth Milversted, Jo Etta Brown, Diana Casey, Frankie Holland, Tricia Pratto, Genevieve Southgate, Mary Thompson, Doris Willis and Jean Zimmerman.