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Yule party starts stroll

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AMY SCHERZER'S DIARY
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By AMY SCHERZER, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published November 29, 2002


STROLLING WITH SOCIETY: With a champagne toast, chairwoman Raphael Clarke thanked sponsors of the H.B. Plant Museum Society's annual Holiday Cocktail Buffet on Nov. 22. Then the doors opened for 300 guests to join the festive crowd.

The society's best cooks had whipped up a feeding frenzy of finger foods. Regulars knew to look for Robin Gonzalez's pralines, Ann Schell's surprise meringues and Marie Preston's liver pate.

The $50-ticket party traditionally kicks off the museum's 21-day Victorian Stroll at the former Tampa Bay Hotel. This year's fete raised $41,000 for museum restoration.

Stroll chairwoman Joan Jones, who has volunteered more than 800 hours at the museum this year, borrowed Victorian toys, dolls and furniture to decorate 12 rooms and more than 20 trees, while pediatrician Earl Smith lent his antique train collection. The Victorian Stroll runs Dec. 3-23.

GROOVIN' ON A WEDNESDAY NIGHT: No stormy weather for the fourth jazz party given by VIVO, a Florida Orchestra support group. Two previous soirees were soggy affairs, but perfect breezes accompanied the 16-piece Dan McMillion Jazz Orchestra for the Groovin' High Energy Big Band concert Nov. 20. About 100 VIVO members and friends kept the beat at City Center Esplanade, the brick courtyard between the two event sponsors, Bank of Tampa and the Hyatt Regency Downtown.

Barb Izzi, VIVO's president and founder, buzzed around the pasta and wine bar. WUSF-FM 89.7 jazz director Bob Seymour, VIVO's artistic adviser, said the group would give the orchestra $10,000 raised at seven such soirees in the past two years. The orchestra will spend the money on educational programs like the Magical Music Box, which sends musicians and instruments to schools for hands-on experiences.

PFEIFFER PFUNDRAISER: Donors to the USF Suncoast Gerontology Center sipped cocktails at Eric and Natasha Pfeiffer's home earlier this month. Eric Pfeiffer, founder and current director of the internationally known Alzheimer's disease research center, dubbed them "Vanguards" for being the initial givers to a five-year campaign.

The group raised $171,000, surpassing the Phase 1 goal of $150,000, said Neil McMullen, development director of the center. Unseen heroes Frank and Carol Morsani, on grandparent duty for the night, had pledged $25,000 outright and promised another $25,000 in matching funds, leading to a $75,000 windfall.

Alzheimer's afflicts more than 4-million Americans, a number predicted to quadruple by 2047 unless a cure is found.

HIGHEST HONOR: Only the executive committee of the Spring of Tampa Bay board knew about the surprise agenda item at the Nov. 21 meeting. Everyone else wondered what was going on when president Bert Martin turned the meeting over to chief executive officer Sue Spitz.

Spitz presented the first Hands of Peace award to board vice president Erika Wallace. Spitz said the award was created to honor people passionate about eliminating domestic violence, not for a monetary or time commitment.

Said Spitz: "We couldn't have a better standard to measure by than Erika." Added Martin: "It's for her vision of what we're capable of."

Wallace graciously accepted the award -- framed hand prints of a young girl living at the Spring shelter -- and the meeting continued.

TREES WITH HEART: At first, the 50 decorated trees and wreaths outnumbered buyers at the Festival of Trees silent auction to benefit the Florida Children's Heart Foundation. Slowly, about 70 supporters found their way to Higgins Hall for shrimp fritters, salmon and hors d'oeuvres from Amore Catering.

Tree sponsors ($2,000 donation) included Disney, Busch Gardens, Avant Gold Jewelers, the New York Yankees and the Florida Aquarium. Along with trees and wreaths, bidders got the attached tickets, toys and gift certificates.

Jennifer Blagg created the heart foundation three years ago for kids with congenital heart disease, like her daughter Emily, 6, who attends Claywell Elementary and loves to dance. Heart defects occur in 1 of 115 births. Most of the foundation volunteers are mothers of children who have had heart surgery. Volunteer Gerri Freid Kramer's son Max, 7, a Mitchell Elementary student, had surgery as an infant but now plays third base for Bayshore Little League.

If you missed the Nov. 21 auction, head over to the Tampa Children's Hospital at 3001 W Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. A dozen unsold trees were moved to the lobby to sell. Call 908-5337 for details.

TURKEY CALL: LAMPLighters, the women's auxiliary of Metropolitan Ministries, bought 100 turkeys and donated $1,500 for the homeless of Tampa.

"Publix gave us a great price," said president Susanne Cleckler after helping deliver the frozen birds on Nov. 21.

Mark your calendars: On Dec. 4, Mallory Lykes will host the LAMPLighters Silver Christmas Coffee. Admission, a $20 minimum donation, will buy toys for needy children. And on Feb. 21, the group's annual fashion show at the Hyatt Regency Westshore will feature spring styles from Saks Fifth Avenue. Bernadette Schurr is chairwoman.

TEDDY BEAR TEA: Every patient at H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center will get a teddy bear to cuddle on Dec. 14, said Lynn Townsend, organizer of an annual Teddy Bear Tea at her Davis Islands home. More than 50 women and 125 teddy bears turned up Nov. 17 for the tea, Townsend's fifth. She started the teas when her daughter Paige was 12 to chat up volunteerism and etiquette with preteens and their moms. The project grew like the young ladies responsible for it, and for the last two years they have loaded wheelchairs and delivered the bears themselves.

-- To pass along tips to Amy Scherzer, reach her at 226-3332 or scherzer@sptimes.com .

Datebook

TONIGHT: Krewe of Venus Debutante Ball; 7 p.m.; invitation only; Hyatt Regency Westshore, 289-9310.

DEC. 4: LAMPLighters Silver Christmas Coffee, 11 a.m., home of Mallory Lykes, $20 minimum donation to buy toys for Metropolitan Ministries; 831-3146.

DEC. 6: Hallelujah Holidays fashion show featuring Tampa Bay Buccaneer wives benefits the Crisis Center of Tampa Bay; fashions from Georgette's of Old Hyde Park; boutique at 10 a.m.; luncheon at noon; $50; Avila Country Club; 254-1141.

DEC. 7: Create Your Own Gingerbread House Champagne Brunch benefits Red Cross Angel Wings; 10:30 a.m.; $50, adults; $45, ages 12-17; University of Tampa; 251-0921.

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