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Donor Volunteer Spotlight

Thanks to the following outstanding donors and volunteers! Their tremendous gifts of time, money and expertise have made a signficant difference to Orangewood and the children and young adults we serve. Please read more about these wonderful individuals by clicking on their names below.

Click here to view the full list, including the six below and: Dave Ritchie; Sandi Jackson; Frank Robitaille & Insurance Industry Charitable Foundation; Laura Peters; McDermott Will & Emery; Tim and Michele Ryan; Stephanie Gehl; David Wilson; James Bova, Karen Norbutas, Kristina Elliot & Misty Woodall; Marian Bergeson; Susan Samueli; Mike McCarthy & ditech.com; Bruce and Lynn Fetter; Paul Makarechian; John Hagestad; Shirley Pepys; Keri Dugan; General William Lyon; and Ron Davis.

Frank T. Suryan, Jr.
October, 2014

Frank T. Suryan, Jr. is Chairman and CEO of Lyon Communities and a graduate of the Marshall School of Business at the University of Southern California. But growing up he had few thoughts of going to college. Eventually he decided to pursue a degree, thanks to the influence of his girlfriend at the time, and earned his Bachelor’s.

Today Frank has a personal commitment to youth who are likely to fall through the cracks and never make it to college, or even graduate from high school, especially foster youth. He has been a donor to Orangewood Children’s Foundation for nearly 20 years – giving in a variety of ways including: to our events, college scholarships, The Academy high school capital campaign, and toys/supplies/gift cards for our youth. Additionally, he has served on the Board of Directors since 2007.

Recently Frank was awarded the General Lyon Crystal Vision Philanthropy Award at the 2014 Ambassador Luncheon. The award is given annually at the event to a worthy individual who has given of their time and resources and who reflects the unending commitment to Orange County children that has been demonstrated by Founding Board Chairman General William Lyon. Coincidentally, Frank and General Lyon are business partners. They joined together as business partners in 1988 and formed Lyon Communities based in Newport Beach. In an interview before the ceremony, General Lyon remarked on Frank’s devotion to Orangewood, saying that he “truly recognizes that young people have a chance through what we’re doing at Orangewood.” Congratulations, Frank!


The late Jim McNamara
October 2013

Jim McNamara was born in 1924 in Hastings, Minnesota. He was the second of six boys and raised during the Depression era primarily by his mother. At the age of 16 he joined the Army. He served for 24 years, including in the Korean War, and eventually rose to the rank of Major. Jim married Oralee in 1947 and the couple went on to have five children. They lived in various states and in Europe while Jim was in the service.

In the early 1960s, Jim and his family moved to Garden Grove and he started a new career in banking and finance. He worked for Union Bank for several years and then The William Lyon Company for 14 years. He retired as a Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer for the company.

Retirement didn’t last long for Jim as he became actively involved in charitable causes with Orangewood Children’s Foundation, City of Hope, Boy Scouts of America, and the Sisters of the Sacred Heart. During his almost 30 years of involvement with Orangewood, Jim wanted to help out however he could. He understood the value of higher education and the importance of our college scholarship program. At the same time he recognized how hard it was to raise money. He and Oralee were frequent event sponsors and major contributors to many of Orangewood programs. Jim was a great fundraiser too. He was so likeable and passionate about Orangewood it was hard for people to say no to him!

Jim and Oralee genuinely loved to meet Orangewood youth in person, even attending a student/donor reception held outdoors on a sweltering August afternoon last year! Among Orangewood staff Jim was known as a Santa of sorts…a happy, white-haired man going cubicle to cubicle handing out candy canes in mid-December and thanking each person for their hard work during the year.

Jim was the father of five children, grandfather of eight, and great-grandfather of 10. He was a friend and source of inspiration to countless others. He died in December at the age of 88. In an interview by high school students for a paper on honoring war veterans, Jim said, “I have a great, wonderful family and a great, rewarding life. I’m a very lucky guy.” All of us who had the privilege of knowing Jim consider ourselves the lucky ones!
Mary Lara
December 2012

This past October at our volunteer recognition reception we recognized Mary Lara as our 2012 Outstanding Volunteer of the Year. Mary started volunteering with Orangewood in 2009. Since then she has donated 238 hours of her time in a variety of areas. Mary helps with office projects and attends special events, and was a lead volunteer for our 2011 holiday gift drive. Around Orangewood’s offices Mary is a familiar face. She is well-known as a hard worker with a calm demeanor and ready smile. We are grateful to have her help and happy to give her this well-deserved honor. Thanks, Mary!

Congratulations to these other volunteers who were honored as well:
• Jeff Johnson
• Lynelle Mejia-Walsh
• Jeannette Preece
• Megan & Matt Vest


Ritz Restaurant & Garden
May 2012

The Ritz Restaurant and Garden has been a fixture in Orange County since the late 1970’s. In the beginning a small group of men formed the “Ritz Brothers” to support the restaurant and original owner Hans Prager. However Prager was a strong believer in giving back to the community so over time the group evolved into a “fraternity of community involved men”. Members pay annual “dues” of $150 not to the restaurant but to the charity of their choice from among a list selected by the restaurant. Today the group offers members special restaurant privileges and networking opportunities to approximately 600 members. The restaurant also has a similar group for women.

For over 11 years the Ritz Restaurant and Garden has generously donated gift certificates to various Orangewood fundraising events. In 2006, Orangewood received almost $10,000 from the Ritz Brothers. Thanks to the efforts of Alan Clifton, a Ritz Brother since 1998 and a long-time member of our PALS auxiliary board, Orangewood was once again selected as a charity recipient beginning in 2010. In the three years since, Orangewood has received over $74,000 from the Ritz Brothers. “Ritz Brothers is a really unique group,” said Carlos Leija, Orangewood’ Chief Development Officer. “The restaurant encourages its members to support local charities and their contributions are huge for us. Many of the members give far more than $150. We really appreciate their support, especially from managing partner Ray Jacobi and controller Laurie Virtue.”
Vikki Vargas
December 2011

Many know Vikki Vargas from her nearly three decades of reporting with NBC4. She joined the station in 1982 and is now Orange County Bureau Chief and the most senior reporter at the station. Along the way she has received many awards and honors.

We know Vikki from her years of passion and dedication to abused children, especially in helping them achieve their dreams of a college education. She has served on Orangewood’s Board of Directors for 15 years and on the Foundation’s marketing committee for six years. Since the inception of the Guardian Scholars program in 1998, Vikki has been a huge advocate for the program at CSUF. (Guardian Scholars is a partnership between Orangewood and local universities to provide on-campus support for foster youth pursuing higher education.) She has sat in on the interview process of the students, hosted student/donor gatherings in her home and emceed the annual graduation banquet. She takes the time and effort to know the students personally and is genuinely interested in their success. As of August of this year, Vikki and her husband Michael are the proud parents of their own college student.

In October, Vikki was awarded the 2011 General Lyon Crystal Vision Philanthropy Award at our annual Ambassador Luncheon. Congratulations Vikki!
Orange Coast College
Spring 2011

Orange Coast College has been a wonderful partner with Orangewood for many years. It has been the venue for many of our Independent Living Program events for teens including Belle of the Ball (self-esteem workshops and prom dress shopping), Independent City (half-day workshop in a “city” that replicates real-world decisions and activities), College Fair and the Three-On-Three basketball tournament.

Orange Coast College was also the first community college who signed on with our Guardian Scholars Program and it continues to have an active program today. Guardian Scholars is a program established by Orangewood that partners with colleges, universities and trade schools to provide various on-campus support services for foster youth pursuing higher education.

OCC’s partnership with Orangewood has been spearheaded by Doug Bennett (Orange Coast College Foundation Executive Director), Rene Kinn (Orange Coast College Foundation Assistant) and Steve Tamanaha (previously the Director of EOPS, now the Director of Athletes).

Says Orangewood Chief Programs Officer Bob Theemling, “OCC’s staff really has a heart for our kids and, being at a “community” college, they take the idea of supporting the community seriously. Plus simply by being on a college campus for our various ILP events, our foster care teens begin to imagine themselves as college students one day. It’s a subtle but important message to them.”

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