The Florida Holocaust Museum relaxed its annual formal dinner format, switching to business casual, nosh and nibbles, in the Mahaffey Theater lobby. The new view and venue pleased the more than 600 supporters of "To Life: Shining Light on a Better World." Other crowd-pleasers were the mostly vegetarian "bites'' — eggplant caviar, cheese soup, sushi, gelato — from Lynn's Catering.
Violinist Oleg Geyer opened for journalist/activist Lisa Ling. But first, museum chairman Marty Borrell welcomed 200 college students, noting the "H-word" stands equally for Holocaust and human rights. He expects the $150-ticket event will net more than $100,000 to further education and exhibitions.
Ling spoke of her passion for current events, beginning as a kid watching Connie Chung on CBS news programs. She lightly touched on hardball topics she reported for The Oprah Winfrey Show, ABC's The View and the National Geographic Channel. No comment on sister Laura's detainment in North Korea. (We have to wait for the book.)
Tracey Locke of St. Petersburg received the Walter Loebenberg Humanitarian Award, named for the museum founder. Locke used lessons of the Holocaust when creating the Paris Gardens project in memory of murdered 8-year-old Paris Whitehead-Hamilton.
More than 100 patrons braved the wind and rain to attend the Poetic Justice Gala at Bascom's Chop House in Clearwater, many even returning to the 1960s for costumes for the "All You Need is Love"-themed event.
It was Mary Critchfield's idea 15 years ago to take from drug dealers by raising money through items confiscated during arrests for programs that prevent drug abuse. Organizers received jewelry from the Hillsborough and Hernando sheriff's offices and a $25,000 check from Pinellas Sheriff Jim Coats.
For Cat Coats, the sheriff's wife, those attending sang Happy Birthday greetings.
Karol Bullard chaired the event committee, which included Kay Aude, Debi Burns, Kay Dillinger, Connie Whitehead, Suzanne Berman, Dayle Catterton and members of the Operation PAR staff.
Guests included former Ambassador Mel Sembler and Betty Sembler; Operation PAR chief executive Nancy Hamilton; PAR founder Shirley Colletti and Bill Colletti; David and Carol Pilkington; Tony and Carrie Gibbons; Guy and Debi Burns; Ira and Suzanne Berman; Bob and Kay Dillinger; Bob and Kay Aude; Fred Bullard; Lisa Scherer; Vonda White; and Connie Whitehead.
Infinity, the League to Aid Abused Children & Adults, celebrated Fat Tuesday in grand style at the St. Petersburg Yacht Club, mixing Mardi Gras decor and food with fashions from Benjamin's Studio in Treasure Island and Ambria's Gallery of Wearable Art in St. Petersburg.
Models for the fashion show were Margaret Word Burnside, Joyce Larson, Karen McCollum, April White, Louise Wilson, Brandi Winans and Diane Winning.
Elise Minkoff and Ann Vickstrom co-chaired the event committee, helped by Infinity president Sally Poynter, Mary Wyatt Allen, Debbie Barnes, Fern Clayton, Roseanna Costa, Susan Fearnley, Bobbie Gilgosch, Ginger Hanner, Lisa Hood, Dot McCarthy, Karen McCollum, Catherine McGarry, Maggi McQueen, Kathy Mize, Shirley O'Sullivan, Nora Pearson, Candy Scherer, Edie Spies, Mary Wheeler, Diane Winning and Teresa Wittstruck.
Times staff writer Amy Scherzer contributed to this report.