Broadening Human Options at a Glittering Holiday Fund-Raiser

Human Options staged an informal champagne reception and auction at the Center Club in Costa Mesa on Sunday, drawing more than 250 guests. The $55-per-person gala was expected to net about $90,000 for Human Options, which provides shelter, counseling and services

for victims of domestic violence.

Afternoon Delights

Thanks to the glittering surroundings, guests were easily caught up in the holiday spirit. They were greeted at the door to the Center Club by a snowy woodland scene of Kris Kringle (where many paused to take family photos). Inside, the main dining room sparkled with regal-looking trees and wreaths adorned with jewel-studded gold crowns.

"This event is a little more relaxed," said Cindy Ragognetti, event chairwoman. "People are shopping."

Party-goers wandered among tables lined with more than 100 festive baskets filled with holiday goodies. The silent and live auctions featured everything from a $500 bottle of D'Essence perfume to a basketball signed by Dennis Rodman.

When they weren't shopping, guests could visit buffet tables stocked with carved turkey sandwiches, fine cheeses, holiday sweets and coffee with whipped cream and shaved chocolate.

"This is a great event because you get to mingle and walk around. You're not just sitting at a table all night," said Gary Van Arnam, underwriting chairman, who attended with his wife, Judy.

Women wore festive red or green cocktail suits and slinky black dresses. Men welcomed the chance to wear sport coats instead of tuxedos (although a few tuxes were spotted at the afternoon gala).

"You don't have to rent a tux, but you have to wear a funny tie," said Van Arnam, showing off a Santa tie.

Stellar Benefit

The annual event--called Starry, Starry Night because it began 10 years ago as a small, evening get-together--has evolved into one of the organization's major fund-raisers.

"Look at all the community support we have now," said Vivian Clecak, executive director of Human Options and one of the four who started the shelter 15 years ago from a church basement.

Based in Irvine, Human Options operates two emergency shelters, including a newly completed facility that can house 40 women and children, as well as transitional housing, counseling services and other programs.

"Christmas is the perfect time to be thankful and to help victims of abuse," Van Arnam said.

Among the supporters: Nancy Kemp, co-chairwoman, and her father, Thomas Kemp Sr.; honorary chairman Doug Ammerman and his wife, Leslie; Jennifer Ward, silent auction chair, and her husband, Brett; Jack Schoellerman, board president, and his wife, Katy; Bob and Margot Novelli; John and Celina Doka; Tom and Marilyn Neilsen; and Margaret Sherman.

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