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The Crowd: Women inspire, influence at AnQi

They called it an afternoon of inspiration. New York-based fashion designer Donna Karan has created a national program, "Women Who Inspire," combining art, fashion and philanthropy to support community campaigns in cities across the nation.

In Costa Mesa, the Karan program identified socialite and philanthropist Betty Huang as a woman of influence in particular for her unwavering support of culture in Orange County. Huang is a member of the Segerstrom Center for the Arts board of directors and the emeritus board of trustees of South Coast Repertory.

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On Nov. 6, Huang invited the community for an afternoon fashion show on the runway at the trendy AnQi Restaurant at South Coast Plaza. This was not your typical fashion show featuring slinky cover girls parading the catwalk. Instead, Huang enlisted some of the most prominent women in the community to show off the Donna Karan 2015 Resort Collection and strut their stuff on the runway.

The audience, which was more than several hundred strong, cheered enthusiastically for lovely models including Elizabeth An and her daughter Aine Clune, Marta Bhathal and her daughter Lisa Vogel, Dee Higby and daughter Jennifer Higby Dauderman and Katerina Schenke and her daughter Danuta Schenke Herbert.

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The audience enjoyed champagne and hors d'oeuvres prepared and served by AnQi, while celebrity stylist Anita Patrickson offered color commentary on the fashion show. Following the event, the Donna Karan boutique at South Coast Plaza welcomed guests for a little pre-holiday shopping, with a portion of sales proceeds being donated to the Segerstrom Center for the Arts.

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Dining for a cause

The 24th annual Celebrity Chef Dinner benefitting Share Our Selves (SOS) unfolded Nov. 7 at the Hyatt Regency Huntington Beach Resort and Spa. The $250-per-person dinner was once again a sellout, given the celebrity lineup of culinary stars participating in the event.

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Among the notables were Franco Barone, Alan Greeley, Louie Jocson, David Man and Carlito Jocson, to name only a few. Participating restaurants included the Golden Truffle, Yard House, Zov's, the Island Hotel, Il Barone and many more.

The party began with a massive silent auction and a magnificent spread of handmade sushi prepared and served by master chef Yoshi. The crowd moved into the main ballroom for a dinner of stunning smoked reef fish with pickled grapefruit, followed by a sinfully delicious duck pot pie infused with fall vegetables and truffle oil. A fall salad of beets and mixed greens followed before the main entrée, the ever-popular beef short rib. For dessert, an individual serving of salted caramel pot de crème.

Proceeds from the evening will benefit the SOS Food Pantry and Comprehensive Service Center, providing vital assistance to local low-income individuals and families. On any given night in affluent Orange County, an estimated 4,000 people are homeless. SOS helps to feed about 250 families every day.

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Education trumps poverty

The KidWorks 2014 Foundation For Success Luncheon raised an impressive $525,000 in support of education and leadership development programs aimed at assisting impoverished Hispanic youths in Orange County.

The recent celebration at the Doubletree Hotel Santa Ana featured the presentation of a Lifetime Giving Award to members of the Donahue family, including former UCLA coach Terry Donahue and Pat Donahue, CEO of Donahue Shriber Realty Group. Their late brother, Dan Donahue, was a mainstay of support for the KidWorks cause, and the organization's main learning center is dedicated in his name.

New York Times bestselling author Bob Goff entertained the audience of more than 400 guests with his keynote address. The practicing attorney and consul for Uganda is also the founder of a nonprofit called Restore International. He is a major advocate of healthcare in developing nations and a champion of justice in parts of the world where none exists.

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Major sponsors of the KidWorks luncheon included Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Toyota Financial Services and West Coast University/American Career College. Much-admired KidWorks CEO Ava Steaffens, who recently lost her beloved husband, Jim Steaffens, following a battle against cancer, joined emcee Ed Arnold, event Chairman Steve Craig and KidWorks development executive Claudia Soto-Niera in welcoming the generous crowd.

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

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