The Crowd: High spirits prevail as pandemic restrictions ebb in O.C. fundraising circles

Ken Stuart, Roy Emerson and Chris Garber look forward to the annual Roy Emerson Adoption Guild Tennis Classic.
Sponsor Ken Stuart of Palisades Tennis Club, from left, tennis champ Roy Emerson and Chris Garber are looking ahead to the annual Roy Emerson Adoption Guild Tennis Classic planned for Memorial Day weekend. Garber is co-chairing the tournament.
(Courtesy of Christine Johnson, Adoption Guild)

A year has passed since we last shared time together on the pages of the Daily Pilot. Today we return to share news of the people making a notable difference in this community.

Much has changed during the pandemic interim, yet much remains familiar. Adapting to uncharted circumstances, interaction turned virtual. People took the threat of the virus seriously, and still do as America and the world adapts to a new reality.

We have learned that health matters above all else. Concern for the safety of family and friends, support for those in our midst with an extraordinary need for help, and appreciation for the dedication of workers in jobs demanding great sacrifice have become uppermost in our minds.

One observation over the past year speaks to the vitality and the generosity of community. With all in-person gatherings canceled and replaced by virtual connection, most charitable concerns still raised funds needed to carry on their mission. Some exceeded expectations.

The black-tie balls faded, but not the issues of homelessness, hunger, child welfare, job insecurity, access to healthcare, education, and all the rest. O.C. citizens stood up and championed the local need exacerbated by economic hardship inflicted by the pandemic.

We begin to return to live events with safe gathering practiced in high spirit. After all, people need to be with people. Following a year of ordering, retail sales at brick and mortar stores jumped 10% in March. Restaurants are full, even overflowing in some cases.

Ron Salisbury, leader of the nearly 100-year-old family restaurant business that includes the iconic El Cholo along with Newport’s The Cannery and Louie’s shares his thoughts: “It is so great to see people back having a wonderful time taking in the entire experience with others they care about. This is what the restaurant business is about.”

Salisbury also noted, “Outdoor dining is here to stay. It worked during the pandemic and people want it.”

The 28th Annual SOS Wild & Crazy Taco Night returns Saturday night. The event will be a drive-through format at the OC Fair & Event Center. Katie Santore with SOS reports that drive-through times “will be assigned by 15-minute intervals between 3 p.m. and 6 p.m.” Last-minute tickets may be purchased at $75 per person (not carload). Go to

Chefs participating in the drive-through SOS Wild & Crazy Taco Night, taking place Saturday at the OC Fair & Event Center.
Chefs participating in the drive-through SOS (Share Our Selves Community Health Center) Wild & Crazy Taco Night, which takes place Saturday at the OC Fair & Event Center.
(Photo courtesy Katie Santore, SOS)

Some of the participating restaurants are: Descanso with Chef Fonzy de Zuniga, Farmhouse Restaurant with Chef Rich Mead, Melissa’s Produce with Chef Marco Zapien, and Stillwater Spirits & Sounds with Chef Steve King.

Food and TV are front and center for Corona del Mar real estate star and O.C. philanthropist Adrienne Brandes. Brandes, also a former L.A. cop, is in the initial production stages developing a TV pilot for her own cooking show with a major Hollywood production team. The concept took off during the pandemic with local producer-videographer Ann Chatillon creating a cable show with Brandes which aired on local COX channels. Stay tuned for the next step.

Weddings are back on track. Local hotels are booking like mad well into 2022. Virtual weddings are a memory as people choose to cry in person over the bride’s entrance. Marina Dutton, general manager at Balboa Bay Resort, has overseen extensive expansion of wedding facilities both inside the hotel event space and outside on the romantic bayfront wedding lawn. The Balboa Bay Club’s Chairman of the Board of Governors John Wortmann recently named a member of the Newport Commodores and his wife Anne announced the engagement of their daughter Devon Nicole to beau Jared Raymond Miller. A fall wedding at Balboa Bay Resort is booked in 2022.

Darlene Quinn was co-chair and host for the New Directions For Women virtual fundraiser.
(Courtesy of New Directions for Women)

New Directions For Women held its 13th annual Circle of Life Breakfast virtually last month, co-chaired by Darlene Quinn, a former Mrs. Classic Universe 2018.

Mark Thomas addresses the March virtual breakfast fundraiser for New Directions For Women.
Mark Thomas addresses the March virtual breakfast fundraiser for New Directions For Women.
(Photo courtesy of Lori Butler, New Directions for Women)

Sharing her own personal battle with alcohol, Quinn joined Sue Bright, executive director of NDFW, in addressing hundreds of sponsors online.

Devon Martin speaks during the New Directions for Women event.
Devon Martin served as major sponsor and organizer for New Directions for Women’s March event.
(Courtesy of Lori Butler, New Directions for Women)

Among the generous were individual and corporate underwriters: The Digital Intellect, Brown-Forman, Howard and Katherine Bland, Weiner Law Group, Nigro & Nigro CPAs, First National Bank, Jim Click Auto, and more. Since 1977 NDFW has served over 6,600 women and children who have lived at the Costa Mesa rehabilitation home recovering from addiction.

Newport’s Pam Selber, super social activist helping countless causes reports that one of her favorite, the Annual Roy Emerson Adoption Guild Tennis Classic will return Memorial Day weekend.

“In the past we have only had early registration for about 40 people and this year we are already over 150 people signed up to play,” Selber said.

The four-day event, hosted by Palisades Tennis Club, Newport Beach raises funds for Holy Family Services (HFS) Adoption and Foster Care Agency. The Adoption Guild has supported HFS in the O.C. for over 50 years. Tennis champ Roy Emerson and his wife Joy will be front and center again this year for the classic co-chaired by Katie Richardson and Chris Garber. For registration information, visit

Katie Richardson, co-chair of the Roy Emerson Adoption Guild Tennis Classic is shown with Bettie Shepard.
From left, Katie Richardson, co-chair of the Roy Emerson Adoption Guild Tennis Classic scheduled for Memorial Day weekend, is shown with Bettie Shepard, tournament desk manager.
(Courtesy of Christine Johnson, Adoption Guild)

Jean Wegener and Kim Frazier from Serving People in Need (SPIN) remind me that Giving Day 2021 takes place April 28, sponsored by the Orange County Community Foundation. Nineteen non-profits will reach out for assistance in what is being labeled “Help Them Home,” a giving day assisting O.C.s homeless population. Collectively, the foundation hopes to raise $1 million.

Wegener and Frazier at SPIN have a goal of raising $50,000 with a challenge grant pledge from a major donor bringing the total to $100,000. Their focus is helping families with children in the community with housing and all other associated needs for a second chance at life. Email for more information.

Columnist B. W. Cook is also the editor of Bay Window Magazine for Balboa Bay Club.

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