About Town: H.E.L.P. gets some unexpected help at 15th anniversary dinner

From Meredith Grenier of the Daily Breeze -

The stars appeared to be in full alignment during a recent benefit for Healthcare and Elder Law Programs (H.E.L.P.), at the elegant Trump National Golf Club in Rancho Palos Verdes. The nonprofit was celebrating its 15th anniversary with a dinner and live and silent auctions, chaired by Sharon Ryan, to commence the organization's $250,000 capital campaign.

H.E.L.P. has come a long way since it was started with an idea by attorney Ed Long and his wife, Pat. Their mission was to provide senior citizens and their families with low- or no-cost counseling on elder care, law, finances and consumer protection "in order to live lives with security and dignity."

Since then, it has blossomed into a go-to resource, which now also offers classes and workshops on topics ranging from recent fraud attempts on seniors to changes in healthcare insurance plans.

During a VIP reception, supporters and sponsors bid on silent auction items and mingled with board members and the evening's honorees.

Britt Huff, H.E.L.P.'s energetic new executive director, greeted guests including Assemblywoman Bonnie Lowenthal, D-54th, who served as the evening's emcee.

Supporters didn't have to look far for inspiration to open their wallets. Longtime supporter Jimi Andersen donated $50,000, and another $50,000 was given by Ralph and Lorraine Scriba and their family.

"We have kicked off our $250,000 capital campaign to expand H.E.L.P.'s community outreach," said Huff. "Both donors have been wonderful supporters over the years," she added, while bestowing them with floral bouquets.

Next, Lowenthal introduced the evening's three honorees.

Cathy Hendrickson was honored with the Legacy award for serving on H.E.L.P.'s board of directors for six years, including two years as chairwoman, in addition to her involvement with a host of other nonprofits. After moving to the Palos Verdes Peninsula in 1970, she served for 43 years in the banking industry, retiring in February from her post as CEO and president of Bay Cities National Bank.

Frank and Marilyn Shafer received the Inspiration award for their support of nonprofits. Since moving to the Peninsula in 1960, they have supported organizations such as the Norris Center for the Performing Arts, TrinityCare Hospice, Help the Homeless Help Themselves, City of Hope and others, including H.E.L.P.

The Vanguard award was given to Alcoa Fastening Systems, a leading producer of aluminum. The Alcoa Foundation develops global partnerships and works with communities to fund local projects. Robert Mendez, Rosie Gomez and Sandra Travella were on hand to receive the award.

Following dinner, as the festivities wound down, Daily Breeze columnist and former H.E.L.P. board member Helen Dennis had an inspiration. "I had this idea after these generous $50,000 gifts that maybe all of us here could try to raise another $50,000 on the spot," she said.

After hearing of her dream, supporters caught the excitement and within about two minutes, four people had each donated $5,000.

"Let's see, we have $20,000 - can we make it a little more," Dennis challenged the group.

Remarkably, she raised another $10,000 in several dozen smaller amounts, $10 to $2,000. Even one of the Trump servers jumped in to make a donation.

As guests marveled at the impromptu 10 minutes of fundraising, Dennis was as surprised and delighted as anyone.

"I've never done anything like that before," she said. "But I know that a lot of people are very passionate about the work that H.E.L.P. does, so I thought they might like one more chance tonight to give."

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