Michele Brown and Claudine Van Gonka represent the San Diego Blood Bank at the event. Photo by Patty McCormac
Rancho Santa Fe Lead Story

Funds raised in support of The Country Friends

RANCHO SANTA FE — Fashion trends, friends and more took center stage to help support The Country Friends at their 57th annual Art of Fashion fundraiser at The Inn at Rancho Santa Fe. 

The event, expected to raise $150,000 for the many causes it supports, was again a top-drawer event with a luncheon and runway fashion show.

“The event is very important because part of the proceeds from it is given to the various charities they support, like the San Diego Blood Bank,” said Michele Brown of the San Diego Blood Bank.

“This saves lives,” Claudine Van Gonka said.

Indeed, the main mission is to raise money, but is also an opportunity to enjoy a delicious lunch, see the latest trends at a runway fashion show and to honor some of The Country Friends’ own hardworking members such as Connie McNally and Jean S. Newman.

“These two are being honored because they have worked very hard for The Country Friends for a long time,” said Christine Gootee, hostess for the luncheon.

McNally has worked with The Country Friends for more than 30 years, having served on its board for nine years between 1982 and 1991. She was chairman of the 36th Art of Fashion Show. She is also involved with other local charities such as Kids Korps USA, Friends of San Pasqual Academy, the Teens, Jeans & Dreams Team Penning Event and many other charities.

Newman has been a member of The Country Friends for more than 30 years, many of them in the group’s consignment shop. She has served as consignment shop manager since 2003, served twice on the Friends’ board of directors and the Agency Funding Committee.

“I thank all of my friends for this honor and recognition, but it truly belongs to all of us, the volunteers and the people who care for and support us today and for those who have been there for us over the past 58 years,” Newman said.

In charge of the opportunity drawing were Martha Harris and Jolene Davidson, who were offering chances on prizes from wine tasting sessions to a grand prize of a trip of Alaska.

After lunch under a tent on the lawn of The Inn, guests moved over to another tent where the fashion show was held. Models wore clothing courtesy of South Coast Plaza featuring fall and winter collections by a variety of designers from Versace and Escada, to Canali and Pucci.

Among the charities to receive funds from the event are Big Brothers and Big Sisters, Casa de Amparo, the Burn Institute of San Diego, Woman’s Resource Center, Vista Community Clinic, Helen Woodward Animal Center and 20 others.

The Country Friends is 58-year-old nonprofit organization that was formed to fulfill a need to help others help themselves.

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