When Rotary throws a party honoring volunteers serving two Downey institutions, get ready for a mellow evening.
The Downey Family YMCA, and TLC Family Resource Center, were this year’s choices, and as Dr. John Garcia, presenter of the award for TLC said, “two groups could not be more different.”
The Y is one nearly two hundred years old and was started in 1844 in response to unhealthy social conditions arising in the big cities at the end of the Industrial Revolution, and now in the 21st century, caters to the needs of youth, adults and seniors. The other, TLC, which stands for True Lasting Connections, was founded recently, in 2000, and provides for needy families in the Downey Unified School district. Yet they are the same, said Dr. John “in their passion for helping people.”
TLC has consistently received the support of Downey educators. As Dr. John said, “My predecessors Dr. Ed Sussman and Dr, Wendy Doty both said we need to preserve TLC. Said Dr. Ed, “Downey is unique in having the only School District that also has a social services component.”
Alex Saab was singled out for his contributions to TLC, and he was there with wife Giggy-Perez-Saab, a School Board member. Other Board members Donald La Plante, Martha Medford Sodetani in black and silver mesh and a major white diamond necklace, and Todd Corrin turned out, all splendid in Black and White formal attire, to support the honoree.
All the attendees were hard-working volunteers who, when their day jobs are done, pour their hearts and souls into filling pressing community needs by working in one of Downey’s many service organizations. And some help in more ways than one.
For example, Giggy’s birthday was the next day, and as her sister Soroptimist Cecelia Gonez said, “Happy Birthday to an amazing mom, wonderful wifey, extraordinary woman and EPIC Soroptimist Sister, the one and only, Giggy Perez -Saab! Feliz Cumpleaños.”
Cecilia took time out from the Long Beach Human Trafficking Task Force Day, to attend. Giggy wore a one-shoulder black gown secured with a firey diamond decoration and Cecila was a 20’s flapper in black and silver sequins and fringe, and a sparkly headband. Alex varied the formal bow tie look with a silver satin tie.
The Embassy Suites’ large Banquet room was draped in gauzy white swags with blinking gold lights running from the crystal chandelier. Tables were covered in matte black cloths, and black and gold program listed the fabulous live auction items for later in the evening.
“How do you keep glitter from shedding?” asked Dorothy Pemberton, the Auctioneer for the evening’s Live Auction. Dorothy looked glam in a little black number spangled with silver and gold. “Think of it as if you are just trailing stardust,” I advised her.
SEEN ON ENTERING, Dr. Kenny Ferraro, a former Chairman of the Y Board of Managers, and wife Betty in all white outfit with pearls. Betty is a former Downey School Board member. Longtime Y volunteers Bob Earl and wife Joanne were there. Joanne loves to work out at the Y’s Gym. Christina De La Torre, the Y’s volunteer leader in Youth in Government Activities, wore a white sparkly top with black zebra shadow stripes.
They were here to support the Y’s honorees. One was Jim Derry, who was splendid in tux with red bow tie and red cummerbund. Wife Stella wore white top patterned with tiers of large white sequin discs. As Jim said, “I couldn’t have done it without her.” Granddaughter Caitlin with the appropriately Irish name – see Jim about that - had flown in from Denver to see Granddad accept his award. She added to the classic tone of the evening with her flapper headband and long string of pearls
Charles Gregorio, who shared with Jim the Rotary “Robert Golay Service Above Self Award,” attended with wife Melody in black and gold gem-studded brocade and daughter Emily, in black lace. Emily is a former Dodger ball girl whose exploits have been Channel 7.
Robert Golay, in whose memory the award of recognition is given, was the long-term Executive Director of the Downey Family YMCA, and a stalwart member of the Rotary Club of Downey for many years. His widow Mary attended to congratulate Charles and Jim.
Also making a star entrance with Miss Downey and her court was the Downey Patriot publisher, raven haired Jennifer DeKay. Her one-piece black silk crepe pantsuit over a pair of black stiletto heels took Jennifer around the dance floor. Editor of the Patriot Eric Pierce posed in his party tux with Little Miss Downey. Eric enlivened his dark gray formal jacket with a shirt made of tiny red and white checks, and a red satin figured tie.
Lori Tiffany, the Y’s Executive Director, chic as always with her dancer’s figure encased in a short black sequin slip dress was present with husband Scott. Many in the gathering, like Jennifer and Lori, were Downey Rotarians, and that included Jim and Judy Reynolds, both club members, and Alex and Jenette Lopez, also a husband and wife duo in the club, he dapper in his tux and she in green crepe flapper gown overlaid with ebony sequins. Jenette’s auburn hair was caught up by a diamond-clasped band in a loose mass of ringlets, and Alex wore a dark green silk tie to match his wife’s dress, with his shawl-collared formal jacket.
All the energy of the evening, including the pleasure of dressing to match the theme, illustrated the way Rotarians approach all their projects. As onetime President Rick Lively once put it, “Rotarians having fun doing good.” Every carefully chosen word there would have pleased founder Paul Harris.
Rotarian attendees posed for a group picture but there were so many, over 40 at least, that the camera’s fish-eye could scarcely get them all clearly. They’ll be joking with each other at next week’s meeting, about the good time they had at the Gala. One Rotarian’s sartorial splendor was commented on by Dr. John when he said, “This person also deserves an award: Will Medina, who wore dress slacks instead of the usual formal black jeans.”
Manny Castro was present, as was newly retired Judge Phil Mautino, formerly assigned to the Los Padrinos Juvenile Court, wearing the de rigeur black tuxedo. Not to be missed was Dr. Ed Potter, a past president and former Assistant School Superintendent. Ed looked invincible in a silver sports-hero jacket and silver-starred soft shirt to match his silver thatch.
Formally dressed Emcee Ray Brown, whose wife Kookie was elegant in her black gown, opened the evening by introducing the local dignitaries. “This looks like a trainable audience,” said Ray, “so I want to instruct you, to hold your applause to just one loud and enthusiastic clap for each person.”
Sure enough, the guests followed instructions when Former Mayors Sean Ashton and man-about-town Meredith Perkins were introduced, as well as members of the School Board. ROTARIANS ALSO SEEN: Chad Berlingheiri of Cathedral Productions smash holiday artistic presentation “Christmas in Downey”, with Sister Emard Flood. Rotary President Greg Welch enjoyed the luxury of sitting back and enjoying the well planned evening, organized by Rotary President-elect Nathan Mahoney.
Jorge Lopez, Pam Powers, Patricia Megallon, and Ryan Keene and wife Jessica also graced the scene with their presence. It’s amazing how a tuxedo makes a handsome man even handsomer. Ask any woman there.
Ray read the names of the evening’s generous sponsors, also listed in the program, and the loud single clap worked for them too
Those who chose to interpret the Black and White 20’s theme in the Gangster mode included Rich Strayer in a killer loud pinstripe suit with black shirt and black fedora with a white band to match his white satin tie. Wife Gloria as his glamorous moll also was dressed to kill in a green satin slip dress overlaid with glittery black netting. Her fluttery eyelids were lined with silver to match her cascading silver earrings.
Another “thug” was Ronnie Fernandez, with his golf cap, long sleeved starched white shirt, and trousers held up by a wide set of black suspenders. No holster was visible for his gun, but he gave you that feeling…
Barbara Lamberth, who handles so many jobs so well for Rotary, was at the door dressed in black and gold and white, handing out meal tickets. The dual entries of filet and lobster are a challenge to any banquet room’s facilities, but the Hilton Embassy Suites in Downey was up to it. The team of servers brought in the dinner plates, each under its own silver dome. The rock lobster was revealed, resting on its own red carapace, and a sauce boat of drawn butter and a plate of lemon slices accompanied the sweet and tender morsels. Congraulations to General Manager and Rotarian Maurice Casaus, for being the perfect evening. “Phenomenal” Maurice, as Nate referred to him, is the club’s President-Nominee, which means Maurice is in line for the Presidency in two years.
Drs. Debbie and Dan Fox, each a Doctor of Chiropractic, were there, he in a tux, she in a black sequin and net creation. They are also partners in both being Downey Rotarians where he edits the club’s weekly newsletter the Hubbub, with a careful eye from Debbie.
After dinner, while we were still noshing on a delicious chocolate mousse cake, Emcee Ray Brown introduced Russell Skersick who presented the awards to the honorees from the Downey Y. Charles Gregorio, who has served in one capacity or another for 42 years, starting with swim lessons at the Y’s then outdoor pool. Anyone remember that? Charles has enjoyed being a referee in Y basketball games and selling trees at the Y’s lot at Christmas. He now serves as Chairman of the Board of Managers.
Jim Derry’s contributions are too many to list here, but in 58 years he has filled led every leadership position, from Gra-Y Indian Guides to Board Chairman and member of the President’s Club. Winner of the coveted Red Triangle Award for Community Service, Jim is a stellar motivational speaker during Campaign, the Y’s yearly drive by its volunteers to raise the funds needed to carry on the Y’s programs and scholarships. As Jim tells it, “People give to people.” No one can say no to Jim. Jim’s name was inscribed in 1997 in the Los Angeles Y’s metro Golden Book.
Alex Saab, winner of the service award for his help with TLC’s work, has been active in so many Downey endeavors. He is presently a Councilman and former Mayor, as well as past president of Downey Kiwanis, and fully engaged as husband and father to 3 young children with wife Giggy. They live in Downey and are bringing up their children in the fine Downey School System.
Silent auction items offered enticing opportunities: a get-away weekend in Seattle, or at some elite Hilton properties; tickets to an Angel’s game complete with parking, and a lucite-encased baseball autographed by pitcher Tyler Skaggs.
One could pick between The Downey Theatre’s upcoming presentation of We’ve Only Just Begun, the tribute to Downey’s own Carpenters, or 2 season tickets to the 2019-20 season of the Downey Symphony Orchestra. Spirit Baskets competed with the unique opportunity to bid for a half-page color ad in the Downey Patriot.
Chair of the evening Nate Mahoney thanked those on the Rotary Club’s organizing committee: Alex Lopez; Luz Perez, TLC’s Executive Director; and Lori Tiffany, who holds the same position for the Y; Pamela Passow, Downey Parks and Recreation director; Olivia Gutierrez and Rachel Montero, DUSD-TLC.
Excitement mounted with anticipation of the live auction items. Auctioneer Dorothy Pemberton’s gold tones turned crisp and professional as she described and then sought buyers for a fabulous condo week in Palm Desert, and a Dinner for Four at the Downey Fire Station. “Great food, good conversation and the chance to make a donation,” said she. A Ride-along with a Downey Police Patrol Car offers a special look into our city and its variety of citizens. The dedication of our sworn officers shows every day when they carry out the routine but always risky patrol duty, answering calls and investigating possible crime.
Rotary was grateful to all the prize donors, and one of the big tickets was a Safari to South Africa’s Thula Thula Game Preserve in Zululand, with two game drives a day, all meals and lodging included. A safari is the trip of a lifetime, a glimpse into the world where animals rule. The final prize to be auctioned was a week in Kauai at a deluxe condo at Poipu Kai on Kauai’s sunny south shore, during prime time, January of 2020. That will be here sooner that we know.
Thanks to the generosity of guests, sponsors and doors, the Rotary Gala celebrated another successful Downey milestone.
As the older guests left, the party turned into a “dancing until midnight” party, as the invitation had promised. Under a warm pink light Nate Mahoney could be seen twisting his way across the dance floor, joined by Luz Perez in her flapper black sequins and fringe. Looked like a lively evening to come, to this exiting senior.