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Joining me at the Coast Community Awards at AnQi Bistro were Coast's Editor-in-Chief Justine Amodeo and Executive Editor Kedric Francis

Joining me at the Coast Community Awards at AnQi Bistro were Coast’s Editor-in-Chief Justine Amodeo and Executive Editor Kedric Francis

When you gather the likes of Henry Segerstrom, Greg McGillivray and Wylie Aitken in the same room for an evening, you know it’s an important occasion. These people could be anywhere, but they chose to be at Coast Magazine’s Second Annual Coast Community Awards at AnQi Bistro at South Coast Plaza for an evening honoring the county’s most generous community service and philanthropic heroes. There were lots of categories with four nominees in each, and, I must say, any one of them could have been the honoree. I wouldn’t have wanted to be on the judges committee!

Coast Editor-in-Chief Justine Amodeo and Executive Editor Kedric Francis welcomed everyone, with Amodeo relating the fact that the inaugural Coast Community Awards, which occurred two days following September 11, 2001, were very well received but with the Orange County Register (who owns Coast) going through some hard times in subsequent years, it precluded further ones. However, with the recent purchase of the umbrella company, Freedom Communications, “it was time to resurrect the awards,” Amodeo said.

The awards, partnered by the Orange County Register, featured Freedom Communications’ President and co-owner Eric Spitz quoting Robert K. Greenberg, the founder of the modern servant leadership movement. ‘Not much happens without a dream. Behind every great achievement is a dreamer of great dreams. Much more than a dreamer is required to bring it to reality; but the dream must be there first.’ Those remarks set the tone for the heartwarming affair.

Register Magazines Publisher Jeff Ditmire served as master of ceremonies and joined Amodeo and Kedric in presenting awards along with Freedom’s CEO and co-owner Aaron Kushner, VP of Targeted Publications and Special Sections Steve Churm, and SVP of Revenue and Press-Enterprise Publisher Mike Burns. Community presenters included Arts OC’s Pat Wayne, PBS SoCal’s Mel Rogers, Wahoos’ Wing Lam, OC United Way’s Carla Vargas, and OneOC’s Dan McQuaid. Each honoree received a beautifully commissioned award by internationally renowned sculptor Chris Schulz.

The awards highlight was the presentation of the “Coaster” (the original name for Coast) Lifetime Achievement Award to Henry Segerstrom, Orange County’s version of entrepreneur/philanthropist extraordinaire. As the guiding force, he has made South Coast Plaza, with its large contingent of luxury retailers, into the highest grossing planned retail center in the country, and Segerstrom has put just as much effort into making the county a cultural icon with its public art and the amazing Segerstrom Center for the Arts. OC Register Magazine’s inaugural issue captured Segerstrom in Kedric Francis’s feature, as he described the man, saying, “There’s something quintessentially Californian about Henry Segerstrom, with a sense of can-do optimism that was emblematic of the state in the second half of the last century when innovators and industrialists built the infrastructure and institutions that made the state great.” Accepting the award, Segerstrom, conveying his endearing vision and  spirit, said, “Let’s be the idol of the world in what we accomplish.”

The other Coast Community Award honors included winners in the following categories: Arts Organization: UC Irvine’s Claire Trevor School for the Arts for its new summer Shakespeare Festival, with Dean Joe Lewis III accepting; Business: Pacific Life for its philanthropic foundation, which donated $5.6 million in grants to local nonprofits in 2013, with VP of Branding and Public Affairs Tennyson Oyler accepting; City Project: City of Newport Beach for its new Civic Center & Park with Mayor Keith Curry accepting; Couple: Wylie and Bette Aitken, major supporters of a diverse list of nonprofits; Educational Institution: SOKA University Performing Arts Center, accepted by General Manager David Palmer; Environmental Project: The Ecology Center in San Juan Capistrano, accepted by Founder/Director Evan Marks; Gala: Oceana SeaChange Summer Party, accepted by gala chairs Valarie Van Cleave and Eve Ruffatto; Health Organization: Children’s Hospital of Orange County (CHOC), accepted by VP of Marketing & Communications Jan Lansing; Individual: Susan Samueli, not the least for her work in co-founding the Samueli Foundation, a resource for organizations to empower people to fulfill their potential; Nonprofit Organization: Free Wheelchair Mission, for providing thousands of wheelchairs for impoverished disabled people in developing countries, accepted by Founder/President Don Schoendorfer; Philanthropist: Geoffrey and Nancy Stack, for their work founding the Cystinosis Research Foundation; and Volunteers: Izzy’s Corner at Second Harvest Food Bank of Orange County, accepted by its founder Isabel Janavs. All 48 finalists received the book, “Henry T. Segerstrom: The Courage of Imagination and the Development of the Arts in Southern California,” courtesy of Assouline.

Montage, the talented performing group from Orange County School of the Arts, gave a sparkling performance, and guests received $25 gift certificates from the An Family towards a dinner at AnQi in celebration of the traditional Vietnamese New Year. For the ladies, Marie and Kelly Gray offered a lovely scarf from their new Grayse fashion collection.

Selected photos by Ann Chatillon

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