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Health center gala gives warm feeling to supporters

April 24, 2008
By MARIAN HOUSER, Community editor
“Gala” is defined as a festive celebration in my well-worn Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary, and that’s what about 300 persons enjoyed at the second-annual Jefferson County Fourth Street Health Center Gala. There was music by the Howard Family, youth ambassadors dressed in their finest, fitting in with a well-dressed crowd, an auction conducted by John Westling and a sit-down dinner in beautiful surroundings.

But the cachet, the added special touch, was the reason for the event — raising money for the health center, helping people who are less fortunate than those participating in the celebration and recognizing the people who give of themselves to promote the center and its objective — providing health care for those who fall through the cracks. According to the Rev. Bruce Hitchcock, there are 20,000 Jefferson County residents who don’t qualify for medical cards but don’t earn enough to buy health care.

He spelled out the gala purpose, “We do things like this to help people who need assistance. “

He pointed out that Trinity Health System gives millions of dollars in free care but there still are too many people who have no access to health care.

“It’s all about access, about treatment, about life.” “What happens to one person in our county, our community, affects each one of us,” he said, citing the need for support for the center.

There was an excitement, a buoyancy to the crowd, many of whom have had some connection to the health center and the work it does.

Dr. Charn S. Nandra, a cardiologist who was the medical honoree, says his first love was family medicine, and that’s what his two nights a month donated to the center give him a chance to revisit.

He said he enjoys it so much that sometimes he shows up when it isn’t his night to work.

Phyllis Riccadonna, gala co-chairman for two years, doesn’t have final figures for money raised this year but I’ve heard it will be well above the $50,000 from 2007.

Two thousand five hundred dollars of this proceed came from the Jefferson County Community Foundation Youth Action Committee donated in honor of two of the ambassadors, Matt Gallabrese and Kevin Joyce.

The auction brought several spirited bidding competitions, including one between Bob Gribben and Dr. Nandra for a pair of tickets to the Penguin playoffs donated by Tom Graham, another award recipient. Tom initially was donating tickets to a Penguins game next season but upped the ante to playoff tickets when he saw the opportunity to raise even more money for the center.

There were lots of familiar faces among the crowd, people who always are generous supporters of charity events.

We shared a table with Dave Hindman II, gala co-chairman, and auction assistant extraordinary, his wife, Kay, and their handsome family, daughters Christine Buchmelter and Carolyn Buchanan, son Drew Hindman and Carolyn’s husband, Larry. Also seated with us was Mari Ann Ohba, who works with them at World Radio Telecommunications and was the recipient of special thanks for her hard work on the gala.

Sitting nearby were Laura Meeks, Patricia Fletcher and Beth McVey. In addition to the people in the photos above, other attendees included Carmella and Lou Gentile, Greg and Jennifer Agresta, and Lucy Scaffidi, maker of wonderful biscotti, who confided that she does some sewing for lovely ambassador Jelena Povich.

Other faithful supporters of good causes in the crowd included Barb and Richard Wilinski, Fred and Rene Walsh, Kim and Brian Felmet, Roetta and “Fish” Allen, Craig and Patricia Allen, Carolyn and Jody Glaub, Betty Ann and Gary Kessler, Emil Westling, Huberta Sicilliano, Anna Thomas, Joyce Orlando, Nan Watzman, Lou Gentile, Patti Reda, Tom Timmons, Dave Fortunato, Phyllis Riccadonna’s son, Anthony, and Dave Lalich, Bruce Williams, Hank and Kay Kuzma, Kathi and Chris Gagin, representing U.S. Rep. Charlie Wilson, who sent U.S. House of Representatives commendations to all the honorees, and Anita Jackson, who received special recognition for her work in selecting and organizing the ambassadors.

Bob Spence, former Steubenville policeman, had two granddaughters, Katie and Kelly Spence, who were ambassadors.

John Corrigan and Craig Allen were on duty, ready to assist any of the ambassadors who needed help up the steps.

The program featured a cover designed by Jeanne D’Anniballe, carrying out this year’s theme, “It Takes a Heart to Give a Hand. Other committee members still on the job that night included Sharon Adams, Louise Donofe, Betty Ferron, Tom Graham, Craig Allen, Caroline Harris, Anita, Mari Ann, Gloria Popp, Lucy Scaffidi, Diann Schmitt, Janet Sharpe and Gloria Tripodi.

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