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Freshly inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, onetime Tampa Bay Buccaneer Derrick Brooks was the keynote speaker at the Pinellas County Urban League's annual Equal Opportunity Day gala.

More than 500 guests attended the dinner at the Hilton St. Petersburg Carillon Park, where the former linebacker encouraged investing in children and community service.

The league's own Hall of Fame presentations went to Smith/Milton Award recipient Evelyn Gardner, a 35-year volunteer with the organization's nursing tutorial program; Chairman's Award recipient David J. Linesh, a legal advocate; President's Award recipient Jackie Baron, a technology contributor; and Volunteer of the Year Jamaal Chaney, who volunteers with the league's GED program and assists adults with their educational goals.

Additional program participants included Watson L. Haynes II, the league's president and CEO and Alvin Nesmith, board of directors chairman.

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Food and fashion blended in an elegant evening in the Mahaffey Theater lobby, where patrons gathered in support of "Swanky Soiree V," a fundraiser for Brookwood Florida.

Latin music from Sol Caribe kept the crowd energetic throughout the evening, and models showed the newest collections from White House/Black Market as guests partook of food from a number of area restaurants.

Onetime Brookwood resident Ashleigh Stevens, 43, recounted her time with the organization, citing years of family dysfunction and abuse.

"For the first time in my life," she said, "I felt I had a home and a family ... and a purpose."

Stevens left Brookwood in 1989, shortly before her 18th birthday. Twenty-five years later, she has had success in the workplace and as a mother, and she hopes to become a Brookwood mentor.

Also recognized were executive director Pam Mesmer and event chairman John William Barger III. Organizers also remembered restaurateur SharonO'Gradney-Krkljusand jazz musician Rick Gee, both of whom supported the event and died this year.

Additional volunteers on the event committee were Roseanna Costa, Sue Cramer, Leah Dohrman, Phyllis Eig, Kelly Francisco, Miriam Gillespie, Summer Goldman, Dawn Greenidge, Sparky Ierna, Marie Izzo, Kathy Jones, Karen Julien, Mona Kelly, Joyce and Walter Larson, Angela Myers, Joann Nestor, Edie Spies and Diane Sunden.

The Larsons were hosts at a sponsor dinner the next evening, which featured food from Michael's on East in Sarasota and wines from Jean-Charles Boisset.

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With a wine bar and a mojito station, plus bountiful bites from nearly 20 restaurants and others, the comestible portion of the "Eat Rich Play Dirty" fundraiser for the Morean Arts Center was easily accomplished.

The atmosphere inside the Morean's Center for Clay, in the St, Petersburg's historic train station on 22nd Street S, was festive as participants got "dirty" while trying their hands at pottery.

Others decorated straw sombreros, painted silk fans and watched artists' demonstrations throughout the evening. Nearly everyone was enticed by the music of the Group Next Door.

The center's executive director, Wayne Atherholt, was there, along with event committee members including Beth Morean,Valerie Scott Knaust,Maria Rawls, Susan Reiter, Sarah Aldrich, Judy Wood, Cory Adler and Martin Bimler.


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Social datebook

Support Daystar Life Center

Daystar Life Center presents "Fashion Fling," a fundraising luncheon featuring clothing from Daystar Thrift Shoppe in St. Petersburg, 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Saturday at Blessed Trinity Catholic Church, 1600 54th Ave. S. $25. (727) 498-8794.

Great Explorations fundraiser

"Great Extravaganza," the annual fundraiser for Great Explorations, the children's museum, has a 1920s garden party theme Saturday at the Rutland-Farley estate, 5030 Sunrise Drive S, St. Petersburg. The event begins with a VIP sunset reception from 5:30 to 7 p.m. and continues from 7 to 11 p.m. with cocktails, dinner, vintage lawn games, entertainment and dancing. $150 VIP, $100 general admission.; (727) 821-8992.

Panhellenic get-together

The St. Petersburg Panhellenic Association will host a social gathering at 5:30 p.m. Monday at Canopy at the Birchwood, 340 Beach Drive NE. The event will feature free appetizers and a cash bar. (727) 215-7107.

Free Clinic fundraiser

The St. Petersburg Free Clinic's annual luncheon fundraiser, "Soup's On," runs from 11:45 a.m. to 1 p.m. Thursday at the Coliseum, 535 Fourth Ave. N. Admission is free; participants are encouraged to donate money, nonperishable food and personal hygiene items. (727) 821-1200, ext. 114.

Stuart Society benefit

Paris jewelry designer Sarah Besnainou will be the guest at "Cocktails and Couture," a benefit for the Margaret Acheson Stuart Society, which supports the Museum of Fine Arts, St. Petersburg. Ten percent of all sales go to the Stuart Society. The event is at 6:30 p.m. Thursday in Fred's at the Vinoy Renaissance St. Petersburg Resort, 501 Fifth Ave. NE. $25. (727) 522-9792.