At the 20th Annual Designs for Dining fundraising event at St. Francis Episcopal Church March 6, diners will find 23 exciting table designs, speakers, a silent auction and a vendor boutique. Among auction items being offered will be two African safaris.

Speakers will include Chef Robert Bell, co-owner of the award-winning Chez Melange restaurant and Mama Terano, a community favorite in Rolling Hills Estates.

Interior designer and standup comic Lynn Chichi will return for a talk on table designs and a special boutique, “Chichi’s Table Talk Shop; lifelong gardener and Advanced California Certified Nursery Professional Marian Stevens from Armstrong Garden Centers will also be speaking.

All proceeds from Designs for Dining benefit the St. Francis Outreach Scholarship Fund.

According to St Francis Outreach Scholarship Fund Committee co-chair Cheryl Gutierrez, who helms the event with Robin L. Pano, the scholarship fund itself was started by one woman, Joni McIntire. 

“Joni will be at the event this year. She was in her 70s when she came up with the idea that we could help just one student get through college each year. She is now 98 and still involved. At this point, we have helped over 30 students, and graduated ten of them through four years of college,” Gutierrez said.

She explained that “We try to provide all their unmet needs, we mentor them through their four years, and try to attend their graduations. We are very involved.”

Three of the scholarship’s past recipients will attend and be introduced at the community-based event on Friday.

“We gave out $26,000 in scholarships funds last year, some as initial awards and sometimes we find we find they need a lap top and a printer, things like that, so we bought quite a few of those as well,” Guiterrez said.

Students are selected from either Narbonne High School or the Hawthorne Math and Science Academy in Hawthorne.

“The students all attend college in-state at either a UC or Cal State except for one, who is attending Washington University in St. Louis. He had been homeless before we met him,” Guiterrez said. “Many of our students don’t have a lot of parental support, which is one reason we stay very involved with them.”

The concept for the annual Designs for Dining event began when a fundraising committee member comments on a similar event she’d seen take place at another church out of state.

“We thought it sounded like a good idea," Guiterrez said. "Interestingly, when our church celebrated their 50th anniversary, we found old scrap books and we saw they’d created something called The Carousel of Tables many years before as a fundraiser, and we had just resurrected the idea."

Among the 23 table designs, The Silver Spur Garden Club is sponsoring a distinctive tablescape titled “Dining with Pickard; Through the Eyes of the Artist,” designed by Silver Spur Garden Club member Constance McBirney and Kathy Swank, president of the Picard Collectors Club. The setting will display china featuring twin peacocks hand-painted by Swank’s mother, Ester Samuelson, a noted artist and painter for Pickard.

The March 6 event runs from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at St. Francis Episcopal Church located at 2200 Via Rosa in Palos Verdes Estates. For more information, contact (310) 375-4617.

Tickets are $50 at the door.

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