The Crowd: Ardent SPIN supporters gather

Ask yourself what you would do if your job were eliminated? Do you have sufficient savings to bridge a potential gap in income? What if you suffered a health emergency and survived, only to be placed in serious debt?

Such questions were on the minds of seriously dedicated citizens who came together Nov. 5 to support the annual dinner-fundraiser benefiting Serving People in Need (SPIN), one of Orange County's most respected agencies assisting the homeless population in one of America's most prosperous communities.

Some 250 guests, attired in tasteful black and white cocktail attire, came together at the Hilton Waterfront Beach Resort, Huntington Beach to remind one another of the serious purpose of the evening. It was an event created around a theme of community awareness, where good friends intent on an ongoing commitment to doing good deeds for those less fortunate raised money to keep a roof overhead and food on the table.

An impressive $161,607 net was raised, with 87% of SPIN's charitable contributions going directly to help those who need it most.

The core of SPIN's support comes from folks who seek no publicity, who do not attend gala dinners to display their elegant attire or to climb the social ladder. Their motivation is based on an ethical call to action. One donor in the crowd raised his hand and pledged a thousand-dollar gift, saying, "It's the right thing to do."

Mary Lou Shattuck, SPIN board chairwoman, super-dedicated along with her husband, Wayne Shattuck, stood and responded, "Yes, it is the right thing to do."

The crowd applauded.

Notable guests supporting the cause included Frank and Peggy Listi, Dick and Kim Crawford, Al De Grassi, Max and Arlen Gardner, Mario and Grace Greiderer, and Dick and Karen Nichol. Also front and center for SPIN were Tom and Lara Giddings, Baraa Sarakby, Tom and Lori Cavallo, Joyce Takeda and Mark Wakefield, Maureen Flanagan, Sean Pate, Scott Lieberman, Charlie Granville and Lynn Freer.

The 22nd annual SPIN dinner was created under the banner of "Bella Notte." An evening of gourmet food and wine was made possible by the culinary collaboration of Hilton Executive Chef Jeff Littlefield and celebrity guest Chef Alessandro Pirozzi of the famed Cucina Alessá restaurants.

The evening was also made possible by the generosity of Hilton owner Robert Mayer and family, along with corporate givers that included Crawford Custom Homes, South Coast Plaza, Golden State Foods, Plaza Bank, O'Melveny & Myers LLP, Fixtures Living and Succession Strategies Inc., to name a few. Generous patron sponsors included the Frome Family Foundation, John Rallis and Mary Bergman-Rallis, Thom and Kim Miller, Florence and Keith Smith, Joan Smart and SPIN Executive Director Jean Wegener.

In a heartfelt address, Wegener shared her experiences working with SPIN clients for almost two decades. She recalled her early days on the job assisting homeless individuals and families also struggling with substance-abuse challenges, which is another of the agency's most serious tasks. Wegener told the story of "Mike," an O.C. man who had lost his job, his home, his family and his self-respect directly due to his abuse of alcohol and drugs.

Then "Mike" was introduced. The man, who had hit bottom 18 years ago, stood up at a table in the Hilton ballroom and came up to the dais to address the crowd.

"With the help of SPIN, my life was saved," he said. "They got me off the street, into a long-term rehab program, and eventually back in the workforce, clean and sober. Today I run a painting business, I have my family back and I've put my children through college."

"SPIN's programs work, and they work long term," Wegener added. "We can and we do change lives. We make a real difference."

The culinary team served a marvelous Italian dinner that began with a first course of octopus carpaccio followed by ox tail ravioli and an entrée of veal oso buco over risotto. The crowd raved over the superb dinner and bid on an extensive silent auction produced by event organizers Knockout Productions. The auction featured literally dozens of fabulous items from donors such as Tiffany & Co., Cartier, Lugano Diamonds, Traditional Jewelers, Winston's Jewelers, the Hilton hotel, the Island Hotel, the Balboa Bay Club & Resort, the Ritz Restaurant, Corum Watch Co., Hotel Le Bristol, Paris and so many more.

Also present for the event was Cindy Boyce, daughter of SPIN founder Sam Boyce. Wegener took time to pay tribute to the staff, the board of directors and the hundreds of clients whom SPIN donors are assisting.

"SPIN has left a lasting legacy in the lives changed over the past 22 years," she said. "Everyone involved has made a significant human contribution — helping people to grow, directly or indirectly — and for all, I hope and wish that the best is yet to be."

To learn more about SPIN, visit http://www.spinOC.org or call the office at (714) 751-1101.

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

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