Human Options ‘Serious Fun’ Gala Honors Newport Coast Couple

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Human Options CEO Maricela Rios-Faust, Abdo and Michele Khoury, Human Option Board President Celina Doka

Human Options held its annual Serious Fun Gala on May 22, but like most special events over the past year, the organization shifted to a virtual event themed “A Whimsical Evening in the Enchanted Forest.”

Human Options had a goal of raising $375,000 through sponsorships and donations, but they exceeded that goal and raised a total of $416,000.

All funds raised go toward Human Options’ various programs, including its emergency shelter, crisis hotline, transitional housing program, counseling, legal advocacy, children’s therapy, elder abuse prevention and prevention education programs in the community.

The event honored Newport Coast residents Michele I. and Abdo Khoury. During the event, Michele shared her story of growing up in a violent and abusive environment. She understands the courage the Human Options clients possess to leave a dehumanizing relationship to begin the healing process.

Abdo and Michele Khoury

“After over a year of incredible hardship for so many, we’re thrilled to move forward with our annual gala, albeit virtually, and we’re proud to honor Michele and Abdo with our DOVE Award,” said Human Options CEO Maricela Rios-Faust. “Our mission of ending the cycle of domestic violence resonated with Michele, a supporter of Human Options for almost two decades. She is also an author who just finished writing her newest fiction book which sheds a light on the cycle of abuse that happens all too often behind closed doors. As we continue to advocate for those affected by abuse and educating our community in recognizing relationship violence as an issue that threatens everyone, we’re grateful to recognize Michele and Abdo for supporting our cause.”

Michele has served on the Human Options board for nine years and has supported the organization for nearly 20 years. Abdo, a retired Chief Financial Officer, served on the finance committee for several years.

A survivor of domestic violence herself, Michele transitioned from her consulting business of 20 years, Enterprise Selling International, Inc., to pursue her dream of becoming a women’s mainstream fiction author. Her debut novel, “Busted,” focused on cocaine and its abuse. The book won the 2018 Readers’ Favorite Bronze Medal. Her second book, “The Sheriff’s Wife,” targeted for release in 2022, covers the subject of intimate partner abuse and family violence.

Human Options CEO Maricela Rios-Faust and Human Option Board President Celina Doka at the virtual gala taping

The funds raised at this year’s event are more important than ever for Human Options, as rates of relationship violence have increased during the COVID-19 pandemic. With stay-at-home mandates, financial stress of unemployment, and school closures, victims have been separated from the people and resources they need most.

A recent study shows domestic violence incidents spiked more than 8 percent nationwide following last year’s lockdown orders.

Last year, Human Options reached over 8,000 community members through education and prevention, provided nearly 500 individuals and families with a safe home through the emergency shelter and transitional housing program, served over 1,400 individuals through community-based programs, and responded to more than 4,800 callers providing immediate crisis support, information and referrals through the 24-hour hotline.

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