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Joining me at the Laura's House 20th Anniversary "Shall We Dance" gala was its dynamic Executive Director Margaret Bayston

Joining me at the Laura’s House 20th Anniversary “Shall We Dance” gala was its dynamic Executive Director Margaret Bayston

Margaret Bayston has done a remarkable job leading Laura’s House. She credits her staff, volunteers and supporters for the nonprofit’s success, but her leadership as executive director has made it all possible. When I saw her at the Laura’s House 20th Anniversary “Shall We Dance” Gala at the Balboa Bay Resort, she told me that Laura’s House has served more than 4,000 women and children in our Emergency Shelter and nearly 50,000 individuals since our inception. That’s impressive, but she cautioned, “There are still 250,000 individuals in Orange County today who are impacted by domestic violence.”

In typical fashion, after gala chair Laura Khouri welcomed everyone and introduced Bayston, the passionate leader singled out some volunteers who she said were instrumental in the growth of Laura’s House. Those asked to stand and be recognized included Kay Hockema, Mary Bentley, Courtney Winzeler, and Frank Murray.

Mistress of ceremonies and NBC4 Southern California reporter and four-time Emmy nominee Hetty Chang announced that the gala’s Honorary Event Chair and Laura’s House advocate Donna Pickup was unable to attend and introduced a video with Pickup voicing her commitment to the nonprofit. Bayston and Khouri then presented the Laura’s House Crystal Heart Awards. First up was 18-year supporter Haskell & White LLP, led by Managing Partner Wayne Pinnell, who has served has board chairman many times and spearheaded valuable initiatives for the nonprofit. “It’s been a terrific organization to be involved with,” Pinnell said.

Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP was presented the nonprofit’s first-ever Legal Leader Award for its 10 years of “tremendous commitment in assisting our clients,” as Bayston put it. She credited Managing Partner Jeff Thomas and Chris Pitet with developing domestic violence training to prepare attorneys at Gibson Dunn and other law firms to do pro bono work with Laura’s House clients. Standout attorneys mentioned were Heather Hearne, Lauren Friedman, Doug Levin, Dustin May, and Adam Brauner.

Following an impactful Laura’s House video, a shelter graduate named Tory shared her emotional story. After suffering through a marriage with a man who demanded total control of her life, with physical abuse and demeaning public and private verbal altercations the norm, Tory made the decision to leave with her two autistic children on December 13, 2012. “Laura’s House gave us an immediate safety net,” she said, “with therapy, legal support and any resource we needed.” Tory closed, saying, “Laura’s House brought me from a place of brokeness to a new life free of oppression.”

Special guests George and Julia Argyros were in attendance and following Tory’s testimony, Julia addressed the assemblage, saying that they had intended donating $500,000 through the Argyros Family Foundation before they came, but after hearing Tory’s story, they decided to donate $1 million. “We want Laura’s House to assist even more women,” she said. It was a euphoric moment all-round!

Joe Matthews led the Rebuild A Life portion of the program, which raised money for vital services the nonprofit provides. It was announced that Anne MacPherson from the Joe MacPherson Foundation would match the first $100,000 raised, resulting in $225,000 raised for the cause.

With the more than generous donations made by the Argyros’s and MacPherson’s and many others, the resulting net proceeds reached nearly $1.4 million for the nonprofit’s mission of ending the cycle of abuse in the lives of women and their families. All that was left was to dance the night away with the Sensation Showband leading the way!

Selected photos by Ann Chatillon