Social distancing translates to zero social gatherings on behalf of Orange County nonprofits. Spring galas, fashion luncheons, charity tennis and, in some cases, weddings are on hold. Easter brunch is a big question mark.
Nonprofits in the business of financially serving the under-served, funding the research underpinning disease cures and prevention, the education of children, supporting the arts, feeding the hungry, and housing homeless men, women and children, face serious chaos in this time of COVID-19.
If the funding stops, what then?
Jean Wegener, executive director of Serving People In Need (SPIN), a placement and service agency in Costa Mesa aiding homeless families with children asks: “What about the potentially disastrous effects of coronavirus on our homeless population and in turn the effect such an outbreak may have on the population at large? We cannot close up shop, must remain proactive and our support is more important than ever.”
Her words are echoed by all sectors of the nonprofit social network.
Last week in Newport Beach, the undeclared social center of Orange County, events canceled like toppling dominoes.
Interestingly, one staple on The Crowd calendar, Childhelp’s annual spring fashion luncheon, proved to be a fascinating piece of the strange new world of COVID 19 uncertainty.
Early in the morning of March 12, organizers decided it was best to cancel the lavish luncheon at the Fashion Island Hotel.
An email apology and cancellation went out to some 300 to 400 donors and guests. An hour later, because everything was in place for the event, including the elaborate fashion show, the food prepared, the décor in place and champagne on ice, it was reluctantly decided to go ahead. This was the day before Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered all events over 250 canceled.
As it turned out, more than half of the guests turned out. The event was a success and funds were raised. The tone in the crowd was subdued and cautious, yet decidedly positive.
Pacific Symphony gala
Meanwhile, just one week prior, before the seriousness of COVID-19 turned off the lights at events nationwide and the stock market turned bear from bull, the March 7 Pacific Symphony gala unfolded at Hotel Irvine, netting $1.8 million, the highest-ever total.
Co-chaired by Sandy Segerstrom Daniels and Jane Fujishige Yada, the gala honored Carl St. Clair’s 30 seasons as music director of the symphony, as well as the continuing legacy of support provided by the Hal and Jeanette Segerstrom family.
Organizers chose a New Orleans French Quarter theme, attracting more than 400 guests delighted by extensive and ongoing entertainment from jazz bands to living Antebellum statues, to a photo booth situated on the gangplank of The American Queen Steamboat, and so much more.
Highlight of the evening honoring St. Clair was the announcement by Segerstrom-Daniels that the city of Costa Mesa was naming a street in St. Clair’s honor. St. Clair Way will proudly be crossed by concertgoers attending performances at Segerstrom Center For The Arts.
PSO President John Forsythe paid tribute to significant symphony advocates also honoring St. Clair, including board chair JoAnn Leatherby, Ruth Ann Evans, Michelle Horowitz, Valerie Imhof, PSO director of education Kelly Lucera, and honored Segerstrom family members Susie and Steve Perry and Sally and Toby Andrews.
Noted patrons in the crowd were Jaynine and David Warner, Judy and Wes Whitmore, Erika and Richard Shulze and Leslie and Scott Seigel.
Also front and center were Ling and Charlie Zhang, Pat and Bill Podlich, Valarie and Hans Imhof, and Jim and Sheila Peterson.
The evening was topped by an announcement from Forsythe and Joann Leatherby that Howard and Roberta Ahmanson of Newport Beach made a gift of $2 million in honor of St. Clair to assist funding of certain music programs through PSO’s 50th year in 2028-29.