On the Town: Indian-themed fundraiser helps support local homeless services


Before Ascencia’s big gala, organizers cleverly popped up with the idea of a pop-up shop to help supporters indulge in Indian accessories for the evening.

A smattering of those planning to attend the gala showed up on Jan. 20 at the Ascencia office in Glendale.

Looking over Indian-themed jewelry, beaded purses and colorful shawls were Ascencia Development Director Tarry Kang, Development Officer Anjalika Nigam and Executive Director Natalie Profant Komuro.

Resplendent in a fire engine red shawl, Nigam showed attendees how to wear the fashions according to Indian tradition. Nehal Lakhani showed off her handmade Indian jewelry for sale.

Glendale VIPs present included Glendale City Councilwoman Paula Devine. She tried on a blue and gray sari. Steve Nakasone, who will be honored at the gala as Ambassador of Hope, is an Ascencia founding board member. His taste ran to the Nehru look in violet. His wife, Makiko, approved.

At last, the “Royal Night” was here. This past Saturday, hundreds of Ascencia supporters in Indian wear and otherwise turned up at the Globe Theatre at Universal Studios Hollywood.

Billed as Ascencia’s last big party, all the stops were pulled out for this 12th anniversary gala celebrating Ascencia’s goal to lift people out of homelessness. According to Komuro, the organization is looking for ways to raise funds that are less costly to produce and require less staff time.

Record donations totaling over $71,000 were raised by the end of the evening.

But first, guests were directed to park in the Frankenstein parking structure and elevator up to the eighth floor.

They were greeted by Ascencia board member Ron Baker and his wife, Patti. Cocktails, hors d’oeuvres, sitar players and a henna tattoo artist were at the ready to surprise and delight at the bazaar.

Rosemary Montana of Glendale and Lynda Balousek of Burbank were daring enough to have a flower pattern painted on their hand. The reddish-brown paint will last about three weeks.

Just as guests had their fill of bazaar excitement, a Dhol player announced that the procession into the Royal Hall was to begin.

Minutes later, as all found their tables, an Indian fusion dinner of market greens and “airline” chicken breast was served.

The award ceremony quickly began as the last plate was placed.

Steve Nakasone, in his Nehru-inspired, long jacket and violet scarf, was honored by Ascencia board President Debbie Hinckley for his 10-year service on Ascencia’s board of directors.

Nakasone talked about a brief period of drug addiction when he was in college. He wound up dropping out of the University of California at Berkeley only to live on the streets for several weeks.

He said he had been too embarrassed over his actions to go to his family.

On Saturday, a distinctly different Nakasone was showered with commendations from Devine, state Assemblywoman Laura Friedman (D-Glendale), and representatives from the offices U.S. Rep. Adam Schiff and state Sen. Anthony Portantino.

Following the award ceremony, master of ceremonies comedian-actor Rizwan Manji introduced a dance performance by Bruin Bhangra.

Later in the evening, Shire, a biotechnology firm specializing in the eradication of rare diseases, was recognized for its employees’ hundreds of volunteer hours spent at the Ascencia shelter.

A lively live auction ended the party. Notable prizewinners were Ani Youredjian who shelled out $2,500 for a VIP Lakers Night. A clever auction idea was handing out tickets to “The Ellen Show” to the last $100 donor.

Dozens of guests waved their auction cards hoping that their donation would be the last one recognized. A large proportion of the over $71,000 raised during the gala came from Ellen Degeneres fans, each willing to give $100 to Ascencia.

Congratulations must go Ascencia’s Profant Komuro for organizing a night to remember.

RUTH SOWBY RANDS may be reached at