Harvesters Carve Popular Spot for Themselves in Food Chain

Only 4 years old and already it has become a social must.

Jill Johnson- Tucker and Jennifer Van Bergh co-chaired the sellout luncheon and fashion show for the Harvesters, a group they founded four years ago to support the Food Distribution Center of Orange County.

The recent benefit, which netted $117,000 and drew 440 guests (with 100 more on a waiting list), was held at the Four Seasons Hotel in Newport Beach and featured fashions by St. John and Griffith & Gray.

With Thanksgiving around the corner, committee members turned the ballroom into a dining room fit for a family sit-down: Tables were topped with gleaming silver, china and crystal and were centered with baskets of fresh fruit, veggies and berries.

The menu was something out of a Martha Stewart fantasy: butternut squash soup with diced apple garnish, grilled salmon on wild rice cake and pear tart on a bed of caramel sauce.

The fashion show inspired thoughts of ski trips and gala balls. On view were colorful parkas from Griffith & Gray and glittering gowns from St. John.

The holiday evening silhouette, according to designer Kelly Gray, who attended the affair: "Column gowns in solid colors that are beaded in a way to give them a liquid look."

Co-chairing a benefit four years in a row is no easy task for Johnson-Tucker and Van Bergh. Both are community activists with young children. Why do they do it?

"No one has stepped up to the plate--it's that simple," Johnson-Tucker said.

Besides, both of them "love it," they chimed. Added Johnson-Tucker: "The Food Distribution Center not only helps feed the hungry but helps charities feed their charges, thereby freeing up funds for other needs, such as counseling and bed space."

Also among the guests was Ron Blake, director of the Orange-based center, which aims to alleviate hunger by providing a food bank.

"There are over 400,000 people who need food in Orange County on an annual basis," Blake said. "Forty-two percent of them are children. Sixteen percent are senior citizens. We feed about 180,000 people a year. The money we earn today will help us buy more food."

The No. 1 request from the hungry?

"Meat," Blake said. "Especially meals in a can like spaghetti and meatballs or pork and beans. After that, they like tuna, peanut butter, vegetables and fruits."

If people want to help feed the hungry at Thanksgiving, they might consider donating money to the center, Blake said. "We will use it to buy food at below cost."

For information call: (714) 771-1343.


Glittering at Chanel: It was a party to make Coco Chanel gush, with its chic table settings and dazzling diamond displays.

Guests at the recent grand opening of the fine-jewelry boutique at Chanel in South Coast Plaza sipped bubbly from crystal flutes, plucked quail egg appetizers from silver trays and then settled down to a feast of veal filet mignon. Tables were skirted in crimson and set with votive lights and vases of white roses and tulips.

Co-chairing the boutique supper for about 60 guests were Judie Argyros and Ronnie Allumbaugh. "We all know diamonds are a girl's best friend," Allumbaugh said at the benefit, which raised $15,000 for From the Center, a youth arts education program at the Orange County Performing Arts Center. "But tonight, they are special for the children of Orange County."

Guests also included Mark and Barbara Johnson, George Argyros, Larry and Dee Higby, Judy Morr, Margo Chamberlin, Barbara and Bill Roberts, Toni and Ken Oliphant, Catherine Thyen and boutique director Roger Martin.


A night in Venice: Partying in the grand style of a Venetian carnival was in store for guests attending a recent gala dinner organized by Designing Women, a support group of the Art Institute of Southern California.

Party co-chairwomen Lady Caren Chatham-Heller and Luciana Marabella stepped into the Center Club in Costa Mesa wearing finery with a history. Chatham-Heller (who was once married to an English lord) added a star-studded cobalt blue stole to a gown she had bought in England. Marabella, who was born in Venice, wore an ensemble typical of the nobility of 17th century Venice--lace cape, three-cornered hat and jeweled mask.

"I visit Venice twice a year to be with my family," Marabella said.

Net proceeds were estimated at $25,000.

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