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OUR LAGUNA:Dinners raise funds, spirits

Dinners served at 23 homes from January through March this year will raise funds to provide food and lodging for folks striving to get their lives back on track.

The dinners fund a 60-day stay at Friendship Shelter for homeless adults, which includes meals and counseling and longer-term stays at Henderson House for the employed graduates of the shelter program.

Friendship Shelter serves approximately 300 homeless unaccompanied adults annually. More than 5,000 folks, with a maximum of 26 at a time, have had their spirits uplifted and their lives redirected at the shelter.

“Our mission is to help adults regain self-sufficiency,” Development Director Mark Miller told the guests at the dinner hosted by Steve Dotoratos and Laguna Beach Chamber of Commerce President Dave Sanford.

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“I thought I would talk to you about something difficult and important that I do, but I have to confess that the difficult work is not done by me,” Miller said. “It is done by the 26 people at the shelter every day.

“Then I thought: I must do something important. But I don’t. You do that. You are the people who provide the opportunity to transform lives.”

Miller introduced “Taylor,” now living at Henderson House, who told a story of addiction, homelessness, illness and despair that is hopefully all in the past. A college graduate, Taylor plans to go back to a university, get a higher degree and work in the recovery field.

“There are a lot of people on the street by chance,” Sanford said. “Instead of giving money to them, donate to the shelter.”

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Sanford and Dotoratos hosted the dinner, coincidentally, for 26 guests, on Feb. 3.

Maggie Hempen, owner of Such a Great Party, catered the dinner at her cost. She came straight to the party from the opening of Don Crevier’s Classic Car Gallery, which she catered for 350 guests, including Councilman Kelly Boyd, who attended the shelter dinner with his wife, Michelle.

It was a busy day for Hempen, but equaled by dinner guest Lu Campbell, who cycled 42 miles to Seal Beach and back home in under three hours and still looked fresh as a daisy that night.

Partaking of the succulent pork, crunchy green beans and polenta smothered in mushrooms, not to mention a “Death by Chocolate” brownie dessert: Arts Commissioner Terry Smith and former Mayor Wayne Peterson; Visitors Bureau President Karyn Philipsen; Kerri and chamber President-Elect Jeff Redeker; John Campbell; Mike and Kathy Conway; Nanette and Dennis Myers; Christine Rosasco and Kent Russell; Christopher Tower; Bobbie Celio Jr.; Bill Pasqualinno; Kathy Powers; and Chad and Sheila Conley.

At the dinner in spirit: Frank Ricchiazzi and Borden Moller; and Al Roberts and Ken Gilson, who made donations.

Other dinners were hosted the same night at the homes of Judy and Doug Anderson; Linda Larson-Marshutz of Laguna Niguel; Barbara and Greg MacGillivray, co-hosted by Bruce Dwyer; Stephanie and Bob Mister; George and Jany Gade; Kerri and shelter board member Edson McClellan of San Clemente; and John O’Neill and Ed Smith.

Event co-chairs Barbara McMurray and Gayle Verst designed a more flexible format than the original Dinners Across Laguna when all dinners were served the same night and only here in Laguna Beach.

Hosts chose their own date and style of entertainment.

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Dinners ranged from an intimate gourmet dinner for six to a major social event for 90 people Saturday at the Laguna Beach home of Richard and Paola Porrini Bisson, co-hosted by Joy Dittberner and Tom Peters, Santina and Ron Davies and Sue Freeman and John Hancock.

The Bisson dinner raised more money than the entire event last year, boosted by substantial donations from PIMCO and Ron Davies.

“I’ve watched Santina work on this and how it touched her heart,” Davies said. “As an early valentine, I want to match what she was able to raise.”

Total proceeds from this year’s fundraiser will not be tallied until the last dinner is held.

Donna and Dan Vigil kicked off the 2007 event with a dinner on Jan. 20. Dinners were hosted on Jan. 27 at Ilene Glassman’s home, with co-hosts Jo and John Caldwell, Shari and John Williamson; Lynette Braunstein and Colin Godwin’s Laguna Niguel home, with co-hosts Laurie and Tom Curran; and at the homes of Stuart Byer and Jeffrey Rehm; Stephanie and Kevin Donavan; Elaine and Adrian Kuyper; and Lauren and Richard Packard.

Saturday’s hosts included Binnie Beaumont and George Western of Newport Beach; Betsy and Michael Gosselin; The Rev. Colin Henderson; Elizabeth and Marshall Ininns, with co-hosts Marlene Baker, Ketta and Jeb Brown, Jennifer DeGroote, Sheri Fetrow, and Mary and Dan Shapero; Mary and Bruce McDonald; Mary Kate and Kirk Saunders and co-host Lisa Pitz; Ann and Jim Shea with co-hosts Barbara and Ken McMurray.

Still to come: Louise and Wayne Wright will host a dinner Saturday; Judy and Doug Anderson’s dinner is set for March 3; and Maeve and Jeff Shapiro will conclude the 2007 event on March 31.

“It is our hope that every guest comes away with the idea that the people we are helping are much like ourselves, except for some hard knocks, a few bad decisions and a twist or two of fate that rendered them homeless,” McMurray said.

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In addition to the donations of dinner guests and hosts, local companies also contributed: a la carte, Aegean Café, Alessio Ristorante, Cedar Creek Inn, Dizz’s As Is, English Garden, Fusano’s Nursery, Hush, Philip Kulak, K’ya at Casa Del Camino, Mozambique, Picayo, Orange County Printing & Graphics, Rick’s Partner’s Bistro, Stalkers Fine Foods, Such a Great Party, Sun Dried Tomato, Super Dave’s (owned by Sanford), Tabu Grill, Wild Oats, Zinc Café & Market.

Almost 60% of the revenues needed to run Friendship Shelter come from individual donations and fundraising events, McMurray said. The dinners have raised about $485,000, not including this year.

Other volunteer and support opportunities are available, from Guest Chef stints to donations or participation in various projects by individuals or groups.

For more information, call Volunteer Coordinator Terrell Anansi or Miller at (949) 494-6928.


  • OUR LAGUNA is a regular feature of the Laguna Beach Coastline Pilot. Contributions are welcomed. Write to Barbara Diamond, P.O. Box 248, Laguna Beach, 92652; hand-deliver to Suite 22 in the Lumberyard, 384 Forest Ave.; call (949) 494-4321 or fax (949) 494-8979.

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