Hard to believe, but summer has not officially begun. It will start with the solstice on Sunday, June 21, which is also Father’s Day. But before we turn the social pages to “real” summer revelry, let’s recap some of the late-spring rounds. Among them were the Greater New Orleans Foundation’s presentation of the Spark Plug Award to the Ford Foundation, the sixth annual Friendship Luncheon of the Advocacy Center and the annual Seafood Party given by the Academy of New Orleans Trial Lawyers honoring local state and federal judiciary. The verdict: “A great party!”

Spark Plug Plaudits

The historic and beautifully renovated Carver Theater on Orleans Avenue housed the recent presentation of the Spark Plug Award to the Ford Foundation at the biennial meeting of the Greater New Orleans Foundation. Music by KIPP McDonough 15 Middle School Brass Band under the direction of Kelvin Gibson and hors d’oeuvres by Saffron Catering beckoned as part of the social come-on on the invitation extended by GNOF’s board of trustees. IberiaBank was the sponsor.

According to the host foundation, “The Ford Foundation has sparked immeasurable change in New Orleans by investing millions of dollars across the many sectors that define our great city: art, music, education, childhood development, affordable housing, and economic development.” More than $47 million from the Ford Foundation has abetted the coffers of 76 organizations serving the Greater New Orleans area since 1983.

When the program started — with many of the 300 attendees nibbling on fresh popcorn (after all, the Carver was a former movie theater) — GNOF President and CEO Albert Ruesga strode to the lectern for the welcome and expressions of gratitude. On the massive nearby screen was “Greater New Orleans Foundation ‘For a Vibrant Region.’” Ruesga then introduced outgoing GNOF board Chairman Ludovico Feoli, Ph.D., who paid tribute to a “smart, motivated and cohesive team,” the staff of GNOF. All of them contributed to the foundation and were thus “leading by example.”

Incoming board Chairwoman Cheryl Teamer was the next to speak, immediately acknowledging the role of her father, Charles Teamer, Ph.D., a former GNOF board chairman, in his “leading by example.”

“Thank you, Dad, for the lessons,” she said. Within the audience was a proud Dr. Teamer and his wife, Linda. After calling her predecessor Ludovico Feoli “a gentlemen of the highest power,” Cheryl Teamer continued, saying she wanted to get people in the “power of philanthropy.” “Everybody in this room can be a Spark Plug,” she acknowledged.

Darren Walker, president of the Ford Foundation, then stepped forward after two video presentations. He won the audience over quickly with “It’s great to be in the South and in this beautiful and historic theater.” In his subsequent speech, he praised New Orleans for its post Katrina/federal flooding status, saying “Magic is happening in this city.”

He concluded with “Thank you for this amazing award and great honor.” The assembly rose to its collective feet to applaud him.

“Now,” said President Ruesga, “We will have music, wine, food and each other. God bless you all.”

Noted milling about — and eyeing the décor of stand-up tables tied in white fabric and the huge plastic containers of popcorn — were GNOF board members David Edwards, Patricia LeBlanc with husband Byron, Nancy Marsiglia, King Milling with Anne, Betsy Nalty with husband Dick Simmons, Madeline West, Christy Brown with Kia, George Young with Sarah, and officers Leann Moses and Robert “Bobby” Bories with Bridget. Former board chairmen/women included Diana M. Lewis with daughter Allison Stouse, Dr. Myron Moorehead with Pat, and Bobby McIntyre with Pat.

Then there were Emily Schoenbaum, Ann Thompson, Scott Chotin, Dr. Norman Francis, Carol and Tom Reese, Courtney-Anne Sarpy, Michael Read with daughter Helen Read Young, Robert E. Young, Carol Bebelle, Keith Leiderman, and Phyllis Cassidy. Their presence at the meeting, along with that of about 280 others, created further bright sparks.

What Friendship’s For

Serving people with disabilities and senior citizens, the Advocacy Center rallied forces for its good cause at the Audubon Tea Room on a recent Wednesday. The theme was “The Dignity of Risk” for the one-hour luncheon that promised — and delivered — that time frame. Organization and pre-set food were major contributors.

As the gathering of 145 (including Advocacy Center staff, board members, supporters and friends) enjoyed a lunch of grilled chicken salad and a trio of mini desserts, they turned attentive eyes and ears to the program, which was begun by AC volunteer Sharon Lemoine with her words of welcome. Then came retired renowned WWL-TV news anchor Dennis Woltering, who read an essay written by volunteer Linda Kocher about letting someone master his or her fate.

Center executive director Lois Simpson reinforced the significance of the “Risk” theme, especially for people with disabilities and seniors. To further that point, a video presentation focused on three clients helped by the Advocacy Center within the past year: Christopher Cornelius, Jason Smith and Reginald Cooper.

Then Kelli Wright detailed the financial needs of the agency and asked guests to contribute. Set up as a gratis Friendraising Luncheon, attendees were happy to comply, pledging or outright giving $45,000.

Headliners included Lois Simpson and husband Martin, AC board President Dale Higgins, Councilwoman Susan Guidry, Dr. Cathy Lazarus, AC director of development Pamela Fisher with Ryan, Gary Sells, Linda Kocher with Robert, Amy Lee Wilson, spouses Carla Seyler and Mark Winter, Joel Mendler, Page McCranie, Susan Gibbens, Norma Freiberg, Elaine and Ben Haney, Jeff Rowe, Leah Hoffpauir, Kimberly Istre, Anita C. Gray, Marion Strauss, and Jamie Duplechine, who was smiling throughout. A tiara atop her coiffure, she holds the title Ms. Wheelchair Louisiana.

Here Come the Judges

An organization of civil trial lawyers from the Greater New Orleans area that meets once a month with a member of our local judiciary, the Academy of New Orleans Trial Lawyers assembled dozens for its pre-summer tradition. That’s the annual Seafood Party and Crawfish Boil to honor local, state and federal judiciary. Landry’s Seafood House was the site for the sights. A beautiful sunset on Lake Pontchartrain and a cool breeze were welcome attributes of the outside-deck socializing.

During the course of the evening, the staff at Landry’s kept the spicy, select crawfish, gumbo, jambalaya and drinks flowing.

Notables included Neil Nazareth, Palmer Lambert and Jason Landry, who direct ANOTL, as well as the turnout of more than 65 judges (and their guests ) and lawyers. Mingling, to name a few, were Scott R. Bickford, Hugh and Beth Lambert, Linda Harang, Chip Forstall, and Judges Jay Zainey, Kern A. Reese with son Justin, Bernadette D’Souza with husband Dr. Terence D’Souza, Robin Pittman, Ginger Berrigan with Joe, Paul A. Bonin, and Sandra C. Jenkins.

“It rained a little bit,” said Jason Landry after the festive fact, “but it cleared up quickly. We had a great time.”

Around and About

Michael Kors and Fashion Group International presented Cocktail Hour at the Michael Kors store within the Shops at Canal Place. Among the attractions were the raffle to win a Michael Kors handbag, sale items, champagne and light snacks. The sausage and cheese were delicious.

Catching up with their Fashion friends were FGI board members Emerald Grippa, Tracee Dundas, and Fallon Lewis; board adviser Janet Rucker; FGI members De’Andre Beverly and Julie Branden; associate member Chalone Branden; and from the store itself, Fallon Lewis, Megan Rutherford and Emanuel Rios. Stephanie Dejan, Natashia Paul, Marianne Pearson, Monique Davis, Jackie Gentry, and Monique McGary also enjoyed glasses of bubbly and the FGI bonhomie.