The Crowd: Taking a SPIN for a good cause

"2013 marked our 25th anniversary, and this year's gala was, fittingly, the most successful we have ever had," commented Jean Wegener, executive director of Serving People In Need (SPIN).

More than 380 generous patrons joined forces Nov. 1 in the grand ballroom of the Hyatt Regency Huntington Beach Resort and Spa to raise funds and awareness for the work of SPIN, which assists Orange County families in crisis.

The gala black-tie-optional evening featured the extraordinary culinary contributions of the Hyatt's executive chef, Manfred Lassahn, and staff working with celebrity guest chef and well-known American restaurateur and wine connoisseur Chef Charlie Palmer. Entertainment for the evening was provided by the platinum-selling recording artist Mark McGrath and his band Sugar Ray.

The winning combination created an evening to be remembered, ultimately raising $220,000 (net), which is earmarked to support the housing and lifesaving services provided by SPIN.

Making the evening possible were major sponsors of the Silver Anniversary Gala, including the Hyatt's owner, RJ Mayer, and his wife, Rhonda Mayer; Soogie and Don Kang; Elizabeth An and her husband, Gordon Clune; John and Mary Tu; Richard and Kim Crawford; Frank and Peggy Listi; Mary Lou and Wayne Shattuck; Edward Rimpau; Christine and Scott Lieberman; Mary Frome; Charles and Regina Granville and Chairman of the Board of Directors of SPIN Al DeGrassi and his wife, Susan.

Also generously supporting the event were Angela and David Lee, Heidi and John Oswald, and Joe and Heidi Heffington.

Contributing to the overall financial success of the evening were successful silent and live auctions. Longtime SPIN advocate Melanie Salata Fitch joined volunteer guest auctioneer John Wortmann, chairman of the Board of Governors at the Balboa Bay Club, helping to raise significant dollars in support of SPIN services.

A gourmet four-course dinner with wine pairings began with a first course of smoked salmon Carpaccio, followed by a serving of swordfish in a delicate lobster sauce, then a mixed grill entrée featuring filet and short ribs. Dessert was a presentation of chocolate decadence paired with an incredible Port wine that went perfectly with the dessert.

During dinner, hosts of the event conducted an appeal for support, which was preceded by a video explaining the role of SPIN in the Orange County community. The video featured Orange County native son McG, a television and film producer and director, Costa Mesa volleyball star and Olympian April Ross, and former USC football great and sports broadcaster Paul McDonald.

After dinner, Sugar Ray took to the stage and brought the evening to a crescendo. The crowd jumped to its feet, rushing the stage and dance floor as McGrath and band members performed a selection of their biggest hits. Special guest McG appeared at the party in time to support SPIN and his childhood friend McGrath onstage.

McG joined his parents, Karen and Dick Nichol, longtime supporters of SPIN, in honor of the 25th anniversary. McGrath ended his performance giving a shout-out to the work of SPIN. He recalled performing at SPIN's very first dinner and said he was proud to return for the 25th anniversary. The crowd gave the performance a standing ovation as McGrath signed autographs.

Other guests reveling in the evening's celebration included Don and Leslie Van Cleave, Mike and Mona Reed, Dick and Rachel Owens, Brad and Katherine Mielke, Marilyn McIntyre, Brian and Lisa George, Jeffery and Geri Sears, Chip Robinson, Danni Remington, Tom Thompson, Brian Wegener, and Jeff and Nikki Wegener, to name only a few.

For 25 years, SPIN has successfully returned families to mainstream society.

In 2013, OC Partnership announced the results of a study conducted by Focus Strategies examining 42 Orange County nonprofits and 108 programs that are part of the county's "Continuum of Care" plan to address the needs of homeless and low-income families and individuals struggling to survive.

SPIN's services were rated at the top with 92% of its clients achieving self-sufficiency and permanent housing.

In addition, SPIN was recognized for providing a lower cost-per-client than other nonprofits given its use of both in-kind and pro bono services to meet expenses.

To find out more about the work of SPIN, please visit or contact Development Director Kim Frazier at

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

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