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Omelet parties whip up funds

Two of Clearwater's most celebrated benefits will be conducted this year at what is becoming Clearwater's most celebrated home. The omelet parties - An Evening with Chef D'Oeuf and Le Petit Dejeuner - will be at Carolyn and Ed Hunter's home at the northern tip of Clearwater Beach.

You know, that's the home within shouting distance of where local

politicians want to dig a canal between Clearwater Harbor and the Gulf.

These parties - major fund-raisers for the Upper Pinellas Association for Retarded Citizens (UPARC) - attract a good cross-section of the community, so both pro-canal and anti-canal forces will be represented.

The scenarios one can envision are endless - and priceless. Can't you just see couples in gowns and tuxedos - attire for the evening affair - politely debating the hottest topic in town?

But putting aside the canal, which is being pushed as a replacement for the closed Dunedin Pass, the omelet parties are celebrated not only because they're glitzy social events but because they have raised $823,400 for UPARC during the past 23 years.

That's a lot of cash, and UPARC executive director Jim Leach said at a luncheon Tuesday that the money is needed now more than ever.

Speaking briefly to some of the volunteers who put on these parties, he told of two new group homes opening in Dunedin this week. These will become true "homes" for mentally handicapped men and women coming, in some cases, from institutions and nursing homes.

Jim told of one man who couldn't believe that he would be able to hang pictures on the wall of his room because that wasn't allowed at the institution he had just left. Jim also told of a resident's parent who went looking for the home her son was to live in and could find only a new home, which she assumed couldn't possibly be the group home. It is.

"She could not believe there is that much love in the community," he said.

Appearing briefly at the luncheon was Lori Rubens, 28, whose artwork was chosen for this year's omelet party invitations. It's a colorful acrylic painting of a beta fish that she worked on in the Just Imagine art class for the handicapped at the Dunedin Fine Art Center.

Her painting of a "purple-eyed fish" was used for the invitations three years ago.

Sharon Stroud's painting of a beach scene was chosen for this year's omelet party thank-you notes.

An Evening with Chef D'Oeuf, a formal party, will be April 6. Le Petit Dejeuner is a morning brunch and garden party the next day. Chef Rudy Stanish, the "omelet king," again will be imported from New York.

The public is invited to both events, and can get on the invitation list by calling the UPARC Foundation at 443-0315. The cost is $175 per person for the evening affair and $65 for the brunch.

On sale at this year's two parties will be hand-blown glass creations by Rick Eckerd, the son of Jack and Ruth Eckerd, two of the omelet party founders. A portion of the proceeds will go to UPARC.

Also on sale will be paintings of the Just Imagine art students.

For the first time, these paintings will be matted and framed so the artists can earn a little more money.

Janie and Harry Cline head the evening party committee. Maggie and Scott Douglas are in charge of the brunch committee.