Nothing Scary About Supporting Friends of Dorothy

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More than 18 years ago, as a member of the Hoag Volunteer Auxiliary, I’d spend one evening a week volunteering in the sundry shop selling flowers, gifts and cards to patients’ friends and relatives and Snickers bars and M&M’s to lab techs and other hospital personnel.

One day I noticed a bulletin announcing a new auxiliary group; Support Network for AIDS Patients (SNAP), and decided to take the training and switch from the gift shop to the new group whose primary responsibility was visiting patients diagnosed with HIV/AIDS, many of whom had no visitors because of the stigma attached to the disease at the time. Some patients simply did not want to tell friends and family about their illness, hence they had few visitors.

Friends of Dorothy founder Barbara Venezia prepares to distribute Red Shoe Awards at the Haunted Halloween fundraiser.

Because the work could be intense at times, we were partnered in pairs, visiting rooms to make light conversation with patients, or simply giving a smile and a hug to those too ill to visit for long. I am not ashamed to admit that at the end of my very first shift, I made a beeline for the little chapel to calm my shaken nerves before driving home.

HIV/AIDS is a devastating disease, but over the years incredible strides have been made in terms of education, prevention and care thanks in part to organizations like AIDS Services Foundation Orange County and their support group The Friends of Dorothy Guild.

In the late summer of 1985, a small group of volunteers ASF as a solution to the growing number of people who were dying, desperately needing help and had nowhere to turn.

Today, ASF is the largest, most comprehensive nonprofit AIDS-service organization in Orange County, with a staff of 50, a 21-member Board of Directors and hundreds of dedicated volunteers. ASF helps more than 1,600 men, women, children, and families in Orange County living with HIV. Services include food, transportation, housing, emergency financial assistance, kids and family programs, mental health counseling, support groups and HIV education and prevention services.

ASF can’t provide these critical services without outside suppor, and it relies on the generosity of donors to continue its vital works.

Enter the Friends of Dorothy Guild, a fundraising arm of ASF founded in 2007 by former “At Home on the Range” co-star, now Orange County Register columnist, Barbara Venezia, and a group of her friends.

Since their inception, the Dorothys have raised more than $500,000 to support ASF.

To help raise that kind of money, each year the Dorothys host their signature Haunted Halloween Costume Party and Red Shoe Awards Dinner at the Village Crean, here in Newport Beach, which will be held this year on Saturday, Oct. 22.

One of the highlights of the evening is the silent auction, which features some of the coolest, scariest Halloween décor to be found. Hands down, the costumes that come out at the Halloween Haunt are the best, most creative I’ve ever seen under one roof!  Add to that the food, drink, music and a dance floor filled to capacity and you’ve got one fun trick-or-treat fright night fundraiser!

During the awards ceremony, unique “trophies” made from custom-designed platform Mary Janes by Ellie Shoes are awarded (and coveted) by Friends of Dorothy supporters for their unique red, pink, green and platinum glitter design.

To purchase tickets and download a 20-percent-off off coupon for the Spirit Store in Lido Village, go to For more information about ASF, visit

Columnist Lynn Selich resides in Newport Beach and can be reached at [email protected].


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