The 25th Anniversary ‘Evening Under the Stars’ Gala Will Take Place on May 5, 2018

PALM SPRINGS – March 27, 2018: AAP – Food Samaritans (AAP) announced that it will honor several significant community members and organizations at the upcoming the 25th Annual Evening Under the Stars gala, to be held on Saturday, May 5, 2018 at the O’Donnell Golf Club in Palm Springs. The honorees include Auen Foundation, represented by Sherrie Auen, Ron Auen, and Catharine Reed for the Jeannette Rockefeller Humanitarian Award, The Desert Sun Media Group for the Gloria Greene Inspiration Award, Desert Tennis Association, represented by Nabil Najjar for the Herb Lazenby Community Service Award, and Denise Haslam and Angela Slater for the Frank Jurczyk Volunteer Award. The honorees will receive public recognition at the annual fundraising event.


“AAP – Food Samaritans could not fulfill our mission without the dedication and support of the incredible people and organizations that support us,” said Mark Anton, CEO/Executive Director of AAP – Food Samaritans. “Without their caring and inspirational guidance, we would not be able to support the nutritional needs of those low-income individuals living with HIV/AIDS and other chronic illnesses in our community. We are so very grateful for their unyielding kindness that they exhibit on a daily basis not only for AAP, but for many other organizations across the entire Coachella Valley.”

Evening Under the Stars is the largest annual fundraiser for AAP – Food Samaritans, a non-profit organization that provides nutritional support for low-income people living with HIV/AIDS and other chronic illnesses. Gala festivities will begin with a ‘quintessentially Palm Springs’ sunset cocktail hour at 5:30 PM on the grounds of the O’Donnell Golf Club against a backdrop of the majestic San Jacinto Mountains, widely regarded as one of the most festive cocktail receptions of the season. A short awards program will recognize the inspirational honorees, followed by a delicious dinner, and a performance by Gladys Knight, the ‘Empress of Soul.’  After her show, dancing will continue with DJ Jerry Bonham on the main stage followed by an amazing fireworks display. Tickets for the benefit, priced at $395 and $500 per person, are available for purchase and individual VIP seats and sponsorships are also available. Congratulatory tribute ads for the honorees in the gala program are available until March 31. To attend or for more information, call 760-325-8481 or visit aidsassistance.org.

Eisenhower Medical Center is the Presenting Sponsor of the event, and The Desert Sun is Presenting Media Sponsor. Additional major sponsors include The Auen Foundation, Grace Helen Spearman Foundation (represented by Steve Tobin), Contour Dermatology, Spencer’s Restaurant and Harold Matzner, James R. Houston, Ameriprise Financial, TRIO Restaurant,  
Helene Galen, Donna MacMillan, Scott Histed, Bull Foundation, Savoury's Catering, Renaissance Palm Springs, Tom Gleeson/State Farm, Hyatt Palm Springs, Signs By Tomorrow, and Imagine It Media. Sponsorship opportunities are still available.

The event will feature a performance by Gladys Knight, a seven-time Grammy Winner and one of the greatest singers of our time. Her Billboard Number 1 R&B Singles include: “Midnight Train to Georgia,” “That’s What Friends are For,” “You’re the Best Thing That Ever Happened to Me,” “Neither One of Us (Wants to Be the First to Say Goodbye),” “I Heard it Through the Grapevine,” and “If I Were Your Woman.”

Over the past 25 years, Evening Under the Stars has featured the talents of a wide variety of entertainers. In 2014, an electrifying performance by the First Ladies of Disco – Linda Clifford, France Joli, Evelyn “Champagne” King, Maxine Nightingale, Pamala Stanley, Anita Ward, Martha Wash, and the ladies formerly of Chic: Alfa Anderson, Luci Martin, and Norma Jean – had everyone on their feet with an amazing night of 70’s dance music. Over the years, headliners Nell Carter, Tyne Daly, Melissa Manchester, Jane Oliver, Lorna Luft, Bea Arthur, Barry Manilow, Nancy Wilson, Lily Tomlin and the entire remaining cast of Laugh In, Mary Wilson of The Supremes, Pink Martini, The B-52s, The Go-Go’s, Cyndi Lauper, Darlene Love, Village People, and Martha Reeves & the Vandellas have all taken the stage in support of this very worthy cause. 

Now in its 26th year of service to the community, AAP- Food Samaritans of Palm Springs remains dedicated to providing nutritional support to improve the quality of the lives of people living with HIV/AIDS and other chronic illnesses. Initiated by a small group of concerned citizens led by the late Gloria Greene and Jeannette Rockefeller, AAP provides nutritional support to members of the community with low incomes. For more information, please call 760-325-8481 or visit aidsassistance.org.

ABOUT THE AWARDS AND THIS YEAR’S HONOREES (photos available upon request)

Auen Foundation - Jeannette Rockefeller Humanitarian Award
(Represented by Sherrie Auen, Ron Auen, and Catharine Reed)

Sherrie Auen, Ron Auen, and Catharine Reed – three of the most caring people in the world – have a gift for knowing how to make significant impacts. Since first establishing the Auen Foundation in 1991, the private family foundation has redefined its mission as times and needs have evolved. The Auen Foundation primarily focuses on assisting the aging population, which its trustees believe is an important component of a vibrant community. The Auen Foundation is dedicated to supporting programs that benefit mature adults and connect generations. To date, the Auen Foundation has awarded more than 1000 grants to charitable and educational programs and services, primarily in the Coachella Valley. 

It is with deep gratitude that AAP is able to count itself among those who are positively affected by the kindness and generosity of the Auen Foundation. The folks at the foundation are true pleasures to know and work with. They have made a difference in thousands of lives through their charitable giving to AAP and other organizations in our community and beyond.

The Jeannette Rockefeller Humanitarian Award is named after Jeannette Rockefeller, the founding president of AAP – Food Samaritans. The award was established in 1997 to honor the humanitarian efforts of outstanding community members and recognizes individuals who have lent their energy, commitment, and influence to raise awareness and funding for important issues including HIV/AIDS. Previous recipients include Earl Greenberg, R. D. & Joan Dale Hubbard, Michael Leppen, Tim Hanlon, Helene Galen, James Houston, Harold Matzner, Betty Francis, Senator Barbara Boxer, and Dr. Timothy Jochen and Lee Erwin.

The Desert Sun Media Group - Gloria Greene Inspiration Award
(Represented by Greg Burton, Executive Editor)

The Desert Sun celebrated its 90th anniversary last year. Just like AAP, it started small, a weekly paper covering the city of Indio. Through the years we have watched it grow, covering the entire valley, becoming part of the USA Today network and moving on to digital platforms. 

Throughout its growth its dedication to AAP – Food Samaritans has never faltered. For years they were represented on the board of directors and have continued their support through sponsorship and representation at all of our functions. Their coverage of this particular event is anticipated every year.

The Desert Sun’s commitment to the community doesn’t stop at AAP. We all count on them to help us get our message out, from United Way of the Desert to Animal Samaritans and causes in between. They devote much of their resources to those that need it most. While The Desert Sun is now a part of a national organization, their local presence is still important to them and felt by everyone. The Desert Sun’s purpose is to bring news to the community and help us to help each other. We are proud to call them our partners.

The Gloria Greene Inspiration Award was founded under the concept that great movements often begin with one person’s simple inspiration – such as when Gloria Greene began handing out food to those with HIV/AIDS from the back door of one of her restaurants right here in Palm Springs.  Since 1999, The Gloria Greene Inspiration Award has celebrated Gloria’s insight, commitment and passion, illustrating the difference that just one person can make in their community. Prior recipients include Barry Manilow, Bob Hoven, Ginger Carter, John Bowab, Barbara and Jerry Keller, Dr. John Stansell, Gloria Greer, Terri Ketover, and Gegg Selleck.

Desert Tennis Association - Herb Lazenby Community Service Award
(Represented by Nabil Najjar)

AAP – Food Samaritans has been honored that the Desert Tennis Association, represented by Nabil Najjar, has supported AAP with their annual event for many years. Before moving to Rancho Mirage, Nabil had been a Los Angeles resident and a long-time tennis coach for the Los Angeles Tennis Association. For more than 15 years he has been the Tournament Director of the Palm Springs Open, which takes place over the Thanksgiving weekend, and he developed, organized and served as Tournament Director of the Palm Springs Doubles and the GLTA Grass Court Championships held at Mission Hills Country Club in Rancho Mirage. 

He became tournament director for the Palm Springs Open in 2001 and AAP has been the designated beneficiary of this tournament since 2005. We are extremely grateful for the ongoing support. This type of continued sponsorship directly funds our food voucher program, which helps the Valley’s most needful residents who struggle to maintain their strength and well-being. 

It is this dedicated commitment that makes Nabil Najjar and the Desert Tennis Association an obvious choice for The Herb Lazenby Community Service Award 2018.

The Herb Lazenby Community Service Award was created to recognize an individual’s outstanding commitment to service within their community. The award carries the name of its inaugural recipient, Dr. Herb Lazenby, whose name became synonymous with Community Service here in the Coachella Valley. Previous recipients include Lily Tomlin, Michael Childers, Brian Wanzek (aka Bella da Ball), Rabbi Sally Olins, Joyce Shampeny, John Williams, Richard DeSantis, Cathy MacNaughton, and Laurie Weitz.

Denise Haslam and Angela Slater - Frank Jurczyk Volunteer Award

Denise Haslam was born in Petersburg, Alaska and grew up in Riverside, California. She 
received a Masters Degree from the University of Redlands in Communicative Disorders and has been working as a Speech Pathologist with school-aged children and adult stroke recovery patients since 1986. 

She says that volunteering came naturally to her because she watched her mother give of her time to help organize community events and fund raisers even though she was a single mother of three and worked full-time. She became a volunteer in middle school helping out at a convalescent home and a Candy Striper in high school volunteering at a local hospital.

While Denise has volunteered for many other organizations since arriving in the desert almost 30 years ago, she says that nothing has brought home the need for nutritional support more than what this organization provides for its clients. Hearing their stories and seeing just how imperative the monthly food vouchers are to their wellbeing motivates her even more to do what she can to help raise funds. 

Angela Slater started volunteering for AAP - Food Samaritans in 2010 when she first moved to Palm Springs. Originally from England, she emigrated to Vancouver, Canada as a speech therapist and then as an actress on stage, film, TV and in commercials. 

Her dream of coming to the US was realized when she moved to Los Angeles in the 1980’s, continued acting, married, and then had a business called “Professionally Speaking” to aid clients with presentation and public speaking skills.

Over the years she has volunteered for many charitable groups including M.S. Society, Indian Center, and the Malibu Wildlife Center and she helped form the group “Save Old Buildings” (SOB’s) in Vancouver. Last year she proudly became an American citizen and presently works as a health coach, and is writing a book “No Kidding with your Kidneys!”

Like Denise, Angela has helping others and volunteering in her blood. She strongly believes in AAP’s mission and considers lending her time and skills an honor.

The Frank Jurczyk Volunteer Award without volunteers, no non-profit organization could survive, let alone thrive. AAP – Food Samaritans relies on the dedication and commitment of an amazing group of volunteers. This award is named after Frank Jurczyk, who was a volunteer and cornerstone of our volunteer program for many years. Frank was the organization’s right arm in the late ‘90s when we operated with a staff of one. In honor of him, AAP frequently honors a single volunteer or pair of volunteers who stand out. Previous recipients of the award include Michael Leppen, Dana Adkins, and Bob Crebo.