Sweet things give boost to Salvation Army

MARYLAND SCENE

Around Town

November 23, 2003|By Sloane Brown | Sloane Brown,Special to the Sun

Ho, ho, ho. Santa got an early boost from the Salvation Army Women's Auxiliary recently. The group held its "Christmas Around the World" luncheon and bazaar at Columbia Gardens, and some 350 "elves" showed up. The Salvation Army's Lafeea Watson says caroling and a bagpiper helped get folks in the mood. And then there were all sorts of nifty gifts available -- from jewelry to rugs. Most of them were handcrafted. There were even snowman figures made by some of the event committee members.

Lafeea says some of the big favorites at this annual get-together are the baked goods. She says some folks wait all year to nab some of their favorites, like those made by Shirley Merritt. Shirley's milk cake, a secret family recipe, is a yearly sellout, as are her chocolate-covered pecans. And don't forget her wafer cookies, Lafeea's favorites. They are crackers with peanut butter in the center and dipped in chocolate. "They are amazing," Lafeea rhapsodizes.

Everyone got a little holiday souvenir to take home, a gingerbread man ornament made by the committee members. Lafeea says the luncheon brought in more than $14,000 for the Salvation Army.

Rave reviews are coming in from last Sunday's "Hall of Fame" gala, which the Chimes throws every year. There's always a major "name" or two performing at the Meyerhoff, with a dinner reception before and a dessert reception after. This year, the theme was "The Art of Entertaining" with renowned cabaret performer Michael Feinstein and Broadway star Linda Eder on stage.

Gala chairwoman Barbara Gehrig says Linda Eder kicked the show off with a performance that was "just fabulous." "I had never heard her in person," Barbara says, "The range of her voice is just tremendous. ... The crowd was in awe when it seemed like she could hold a note for eternity."

A tough act to follow, thought Barbara. But when Michael Feinstein got on stage, he really got the audience of 2,000 to warm to him quickly.

"He has this passion [for the music]. It just spread to the audience."

During his performance, Feinstein introduced an old friend of his, composer Jimmy Webb, whom he then encouraged to perform his song By The Time I Get To Phoenix.

The evening ended on a high note. Barbara says the audience coaxed the two performers into an impromptu encore. She says it took them a little bit to figure out what to sing.

Then Eder suggested God Bless America. Eder and Feinstein sang it together first, then had the audience join in for a second round.

"I thought it was cool because I could go home and tell my husband I sang in the Meyerhoff!" Barbara relates.

The night was a big success in another way, too. Barbara says it raised $450,000, all of which will go to Chimes programs and services.

Do you know how to drum with your mouth? If you went to "Class Act XII," Young Audiences' annual hoopla, you do. That's because the night's entertainers, the a cappella group Almost Recess, taught the audience how to turn their kissers into percussive instruments.

The Children's Guild's Carlton Raither says Almost Recess is among the artists who participate in the Young Audiences programs, traveling to private and public schools throughout Maryland to perform and educate kids about the arts.

Who knew the 120 guests at the guild party that night would also become eager students?

"They were a smash," Carlton says. "They really got us going!"

African dancer and storyteller Maria Broom, another Young Audiences participant, served as the night's auctioneer.

The entertaining evening raised about $10,000 for Young Audiences.

It was a full house at Hands Across the Americas' "Hope Gala Carnival 2003."

Founder / board chairwoman Jennifer Diamond says 250 guests filled the ballroom at Chestnut Ridge Country Club to honor three doctors -- Ivan Garcia, William McConnell and Marcio Menendez -- for their humanitarian efforts. Jennifer says each volunteers his time and skills, either here or in Central or South America, to provide medical care to those who couldn't otherwise afford it. The party was chaired by Ronald and Isabel Rattell. Robert Iorizzo was honorary chairman.

Jennifer says the most touching moment was when the doctors received their awards and a standing ovation from the guests.

Jennifer was impressed that everyone else was so impressed by the organization. "People came up and said, 'We go to a lot of these fund-raisers,' " she says, " 'but we've never been to one that was so warm and sincere.' "

She says they were also impressed that Hands Across the Americas is totally staffed by volunteers. Jennifer says she and the board, folks like her hubby Steven, Karen and Eugene Smoot and Santiago and Marta Padilla, do all the work for no pay. The money they raise, more than $65,000 at this party, goes to various organizations in North, Central and South America that provide medical, financial and educational aid for people living in extreme poverty.

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