Community Rancho Santa Fe

Country Friends debuts gala

Deborah and Les Cross will announce The Country Friends 2018 funded agencies at their first annual Giving Hearts dinner dance on Feb. 2. Courtesy photo

RANCHO SANTA FE — It’s the first of its kind. Giving Hearts is a dinner dance event set to be hosted by The Country Friends at the Fairbanks Ranch Country Club on Feb. 2 to unveil the charities they will support in 2018. 

“This is a very different kind of event for us,” Deborah Cross, president of the Country Friends, said. “We wanted a way to announce our 2018 funded agencies.”

Years ago, the agencies to be funded were announced at the December Holiday Tea. For the last couple of years, the announcement was made by press release.

“We decided it needed more pizzazz than that,” Cross said. “So, we came up with the idea of Giving Hearts as an annual event.” 

According to Cross, the agencies have been chosen and notified. Representatives from these organizations as well as supporters of The Country Friends will attend the event.

While Cross was careful not to give too much information away, she did share that The Country Friends will help fund more than 40 agencies at more than $200,000.

“Of course, we try to fund agencies that meet all our criteria, but we also like to fund agencies in different parts of the (San Diego) county that benefit different types of people,” she shared.

Examples she cited were charities that benefited women, children, victims of abuse, the military, animals that serve in a therapy or service capacity and individuals living below the poverty line.

The Country Friends received applications throughout the year with a July 31, 2017, cutoff date. A total of 80 applications were received in 2017.

“We never have enough money to fund every agency that is deserving or to fund them as much as they want, but we try to spread the money around,” Cross said. “But they are all fantastic organizations.”

Cross also wants people to know that the funding stays in San Diego County — it will not go anywhere else.

The Country Friends asks the agencies in their application process to provide two to three different objectives on how the money will be used.

“At a special board meeting, we decide who we are going to fund and which objective we are going to fund,” she said.

Cross also explained that not many people know that the money they fund in 2018 will be raised in 2018. They don’t have a year’s cushion, so they rely on the money earned through their consignment shop and events, including their annual signature event, The Art of Fashion.

The Giving Hearts dinner dance is a party of sorts. It offers a Valentine’s Day theme while celebrating the work that The Country Friends does every year.

Cross said on event day guests will walk the red carpet and be greeted by a Joan Rivers impersonator.

“I have spoken to this woman on the phone — she sounds just like Joan Rivers,” Cross said. “This woman even trained under her.”

Once inside the club, guests will enjoy a champagne reception and hors d’oeuvres. Afterward everyone will flow into the main dining room for dinner.

Mistress of ceremonies will be former anchor Andrea Naversen, who also serves as the publicity co-chair at The Country Friends.

Following dinner, Cross and her husband, Les, who is the current chair of the nonprofit’s Legacy Campaign, will announce the funded agencies for 2018. Ways to support The Country Friends will also be revealed.

Guests can also dance the night away on the Sunset Terrace. The Giving Hearts event is available to both members and nonmembers. Tickets are $250 at or by calling (858) 756-1192, ext. 4. 

“It will be a night to remember,” Cross said.