The Crowd: Highlight local groups amid elections

As I write this column for Friday's edition of the Daily Pilot, it is noon Tuesday and America is midway through an election day that has divided the nation more than any other in recent memory.

It is somehow appropriate to share with Newport-Mesa readers some thoughts on the "Great Society." Coverage of events in the community illustrate just how much citizens of Orange County have to be grateful for, especially in light of the suffering of the East Coast as the result of Hurricane Sandy, along with multiple other challenges on both the national and worldwide map.

As the all-American holiday of Thanksgiving approaches, it may be more important than ever to find a path to gratitude. None of us is untouchable. No one is shielded from life-altering events. As the saying goes, "Life is what happens when we are making other plans."

On that note, permit me to share a few stories about your fellow citizens reaching out to help others.

The dedicated women and men in support of the Orange County chapter of Childhelp celebrated the organization's annual holiday boutique and luncheon Monday at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Irvine. As in years past, the massive event, attracting some 500 guests, was labeled "Christmas through the Eyes of a Child."

Organizers set up a holiday shopping boutique, tempting revelers with one-of-a-kind gifts and merchandise of the season. Proceeds benefit the Childhelp home in Beaumont, Calif., a residential treatment facility for youth who are on the bottom rung of the social ladder, many of them forgotten, abandoned and abused by those entrusted with their care and safety. That is why the Childhelp motto remains, "For the love of a child."

On an entirely different plane, Costa Mesa-based International Princess Project, founded by Shannon Keith, held its fifth annual Fabric of Freedom Gala Oct. 6 at the Fairmont Hotel Newport Beach.

The organization, also known as IPP, was formed to make a major difference in the lives of women and children in India escaping sex slavery as a result of human trafficking. As we in America elect our next president, it is hard to imagine living in a nation where literally thousands of people are forced into the slave trade.

IPP, which was founded in 2005, has rescued some 300 women, providing an avenue to freedom in an effort to break the cycle of slavery that exists in India and elsewhere.

"There are an estimated 20.9 million slaves in the world today, more than were trafficked in all 400 years of the transatlantic slave trade," said keynote speaker John Richmond. "In 2009 India's home minister stated that there are some 100 million slaves in India, including 3 million in the cycle of sex trafficking, of which 40% are children."

To learn more about the work of IPP, visit or call (800) 430-6451. It is especially interesting that such a worldwide outreach is headquartered in Costa Mesa.

Closer to home, the much admired Decorative Arts Society debuted its 18th annual series of programs recently, welcoming interior designer and author David Easton, who addressed the group on the "Timeless elegance of design, past, present and future." The gracious Kathi Koll opened her bayfront home to supporters greeting Easton and kicking off the annual series.

Chaired by Ann Dennis, the society will sponsor five major events during the 2012-13 season with proceeds from the social gatherings earmarked to benefit local charities supporting Orange County citizens in need. Grants have been pledged to organizations including Laura's House, Casa Teresa, Orange Coast Interfaith Shelter, Serving People in Need, Women Helping Women, Veterans First, Teen Project, Laurel House, Down syndrome, and Providence Speech and Hearing.

To learn more about the society and their work, visit or call Sharon Henwood at (949) 759-8231.

THE CROWD runs Thursdays and Saturdays. B.W. Cook is editor of the Bay Window, the official publication of the Balboa Bay Club in Newport Beach.

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