Top Philanthropists Honored at 36th Annual National Philanthropy Day Orange County

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Event Co-Chairs Joan McBride, left, and Elizabeth McKibbon, right, both from Newport Beach, with NPD Founder Doug Freeman and WISE founder Victoria Collins of Newport Beach. / photo by Tony Lattimore

Orange County’s top philanthropists, business leaders and individuals were honored at the 36th Annual National Philanthropy Day Orange County Awards Luncheon, appropriately themed “Illuminating Hope through Philanthropy.”

Attended by 640 guests on Wednesday, November 17, the uplifting affair was held at City National Grove of Anaheim.

Produced by the Orange County Chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP), National Philanthropy Day has become the most prominent philanthropic recognition event in Orange County, with more than 1,000 honorees since its inception in 1986. Orange County Business Journal is the Presenting Sponsor, PBS SoCal is the Broadcast Media Sponsor and the Orange County Register is the Community Media Sponsor.

Mistress of Ceremonies for the heartwarming affair was PBS-So Cal’s Maria Hall-Brown and 2020 Outstanding Philanthropist, Nella Webster O’Grady of Newport Beach, was this year’s Honorary Chair.

MemorialCare Health System Board of Directors member Tom Rogers of Newport Beach and Southern California Hospice Foundation Founder and Executive Director Michelle Wulfestieg of Newport Beach

Event Co-Chairs were Joan McBride and Elizabeth McKibbon, both from Newport Beach, with Program Co-Chairs Kathy Ruvolo and Mitch Spann overseeing the entire presentation. Judging Committee Co-Chairs were Charlie Zhang and John Christensen.

Catherine Spear, AFP President last year, welcomed everyone and acknowledged the 2020 co-chairs and their committee for their work in producing a meaningful and celebratory virtual program. Spear asked the 2020 honorees to stand and be recognized.

Three Cub Scouts from Cub Scout Pack 541 presented the colors and lead the Pledge of Allegiance, followed by a stirring rendition of “America the Beautiful” by soprano Diana Farrell, president and artistic director of Lyric Opera of Orange County. Dr. James E. Palmer III, who serves as president and executive director of the Orange County Rescue Mission, offered the invocation.

PBS SoCal’s Maria Hall-Brown, who was the event’s mistress of ceremonies, with Honoary Chair Nella Webster-O’Grady of Newport Beach, the 2020 Outstanding Philanthropist

Outstanding Honorees included Outstanding Youth, 17-year-old  Saachi Pavani, who was presented with $2,500 from AFP OC President Michele Bignardi to be designated to a charity of her choice. She chose to give to the Girl Scouts of Orange County ($1,000), Laura’s House ($750) and the Southern California Hospice Foundation ($860), whose Executive Director, Michelle Wulfestieg, lives in Newport Beach.

Outstanding Philanthropic Group was WISE (Women Investing in Security and Education). Accepting the award was Executive Director Angela Dailey and board members Marilyn Blank and Darlene March. Dailey recognized WISE founder Victoria Collins of Newport Beach in the audience. “For almost 25 years WISE has remained true to its mission of financial empowerment for females of all ages and socio-economic backgrounds,” she said.

The effort netted estimated proceeds of $75,394 for the support of the ethical advancement of philanthropy in the community by the Orange County Chapter of AFP.

For further information on the event, visit

Hilbert Museum of California Art Founder Mark Hilbert, Providence Southern Operations President Erik Wexler, both from Newport Beach
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