Corona del Mar resident Michael Harrison spends so much time at the 210-acre nature preserve that he’s preparing for wilderness education activities for local youths that his business partners aren’t sure that he still works, Harrison joked.
The volunteer has led the fundraising campaign to make a $30-million Outdoor Education Center in South Orange County a reality as well as adding his expertise in real estate development and construction by supervising the effort on a daily basis.
Harrison is a partner at Costa Mesa-based Trico Realty Inc., but since his Boy Scout days volunteerism has been a passion for him.
“I’m still active in my business, but I spend most of my time on this project now,” Harrison said.
Harrison and four other Newport-Mesa philanthropists were honored Wednesday by the Assn. of Fundraising Professionals at its annual National Philanthropy Day celebration at the Marriott hotel in Anaheim.
“He keeps a low demeanor when a challenge comes up and he always is the first to say: ‘We can do that. We can get there. It may take us a little longer than we expected but we can get there,’” wrote Corona del Mar High School track Coach Bill Sumner, one of the many locals who nominated Harrison for the award.
A common thread that seems to run through all of the Newport-Mesa award winners picked by a panel of 40 judges is humility.
Alan Greeley, chef and owner of the high-end Costa Mesa restaurant the Golden Truffle, has volunteered his services to host dinners for donors to Share our Selves and other local charities.
The events make tens of thousands of dollars that provide the primary funding source for the Share our Selves food pantry, which feeds about 200 families a day.
Yet the jovial, gray-bearded chef shies away from taking credit for his philanthropy.
“The good thing for me is that I don’t have to reach into my pocket and pull out $50,000. I just cook dinners for 12 people,” Greeley said.
“There are lots of volunteers [at Share our Selves] every day. They’re really the ones that should be up there,” he added, pointing to the stage.
Marilyn McIntyre, a prolific donor to Hoag Memorial Hospital Presbyterian, the Orange County Museum of Art and other groups, shared a similar sentiment.
“I shouldn’t even be here,” she said.
But pages of glowing testimonials from people helped by the extraordinary efforts of the philanthropists attest to their phenomenal dedication.
The Lifetime Achievement Award was given to Corona del Mar’s Bob and Peggie Sprague, who have donated a lot of money to programs at UCI and other organizations. The Spragues are credited with single-handedly saving an Alzheimer’s disease research center at the university that would have shut its doors without their help, doctors said.
ALAN BLANK may be reached at (714) 966-4623 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.