25 Years of Honoring Community Heroes and Providing Outstanding Performances

By Bob Bogard


In 1991 AAP – Food Samaritans was founded (originally called AIDS Assistance Program) with the goal of helping the most at-risk members of our community – people who are low-income and compromised by health issues – by providing nutritional support to men, women and children living with HIV/AIDS. In 2015 it expanded its mission to serve others in the greater Palm Springs community who are living with chronic illnesses such as cancer, M.S., and heart or liver diseases. As it expanded its services, it also updated its organization name to AAP – Food Samaritans.


Since its inception, AAP has distributed more than $10 million in direct client service to more than 2,300 clients. Its important to note that these clients get by on an annual income of less than $18,090, and most AAP clients rarely, if ever, make it off of the client list.


In 1993, two years after AIDS Assistance Program was founded, the board of directors decided to organize a small fundraising party to help increase AAP’s visibility and provide entertainment for the community while helping to raise funds to support their mission. It started simply – a board member donated the use of their backyard, and other board members and volunteers built a simple stage. The audience was treated to a series of performances and the event raised enough money to help fund their growing nutritional support program.


The event became an annual fundraising effort and has continued to grow in popularity. Eventually it outgrew the back yard it had been in since its inception, and the AAP arranged the evening to be relocated to the stunning O’Donnell Golf Club in Downtown Palm Springs, where it has continued ever since. The expansive greens allow the event to blossom and maximize the unique location. Set amidst the backdrop of the backdrop of the majestic San Jacinto Mountains, Evening Under the Stars is now widely regarded as one of the most festive cocktail receptions of the season.


Over the years, Evening Under the Stars has featured a stunning array of top-notch entertainment. This includes performances by Barry Manilow (several times), Lorna Luft, Nancy Wilson & “The Rat Pack Review,” Lily Tomlin & the cast of Laugh In, Mary Wilson, Pink Martini, ABBA by Arrival, The B52’s, The Go-Go’s, Cyndi Lauper, The First Ladies of Disco (Linda Clifford, France Joli, Evelyn Champagne King, Maxine Nightingale, Pamala Stanley, Anita Ward, Martha Wash, and the ladies formerly of Chic: Alfa Anderson, Luci Martin, and Norma Jean), Darlene Love, Village People, and Martha Reeves and the Vandellas.


In addition to providing a stellar night of entertainment, Evening Under the Stars is an opportunity for AAP to recognize those amazing individuals and organizations who have worked tirelessly on AAP’s behalf throughout the last 25 years.


It is with great pride that each year AAP is able to acknowledge the dedication of these wonderful, caring people who have supported AAP and other Coachella Valley nonprofit organizations. Without them, AAP would not be where it is today.


Each year, AAP designates several award recipients and acknowledges them on stage at the event. There are several award categories, including the Jeannette Rockefeller Humanitarian Award, the Gloria Greene Inspiration Award, the Herb Lazenby Community Service Award, the Joanna Jakway Community Hero Award, and the Frank Jurczyk Volunteer Award. In 2016, AAP created a new Corporate Angel Award category. Please note that in the interest of time and streamlining the awards portion at the event, not every category is awarded each year.


Jeannette Rockefeller Humanitarian Award

Jeannette Rockefeller was the founding president of AAP – Food Samaritans. Established in 1997 to honor the humanitarian efforts of outstanding community members such as Jeannette, this award recognizes individuals who have lent their energy, commitment, and influence to raise awareness and funding for important issues including HIV/AIDS.


Previous recipients included Jim & Jackie Lee Houston, Senator Barbara Boxer, Earl Greenberg, Helene Galen, Wells Fargo Foundation, Michael Leppen, R. D. & Joan Dale Hubbard, Jamie Kabler, and Harold Matzner. The honoree last year was Tim Jochen and Lee Erwin and the 2018 honoree is the Auen Foundation, represented by Sherrie & Ron Auen and Catherine Reed.


The Gloria Greene Inspiration Award

Great movements often begin with one person’s simple inspiration – such as when Gloria Greene began handing out food to those with HIV/AIDS from the back door of one of her restaurants right here in Palm Springs.


The Gloria Greene Inspiration Award celebrates Gloria’s insight, commitment and passion, illustrating the difference that just one person can make in their community.


Previous recipients of this award included Barry Manilow, Dick Haskamp, Bill Jones, Tony Marchese & Mark Van Laanen (TRIO Restaurant), Barbara & Jerry Keller, Dr. Terri Ketover, and Gloria Greer. Last year’s recipient was Gregg Selleck, and the 2018 recipient is The Desert Sun.


Herb Lazenby Community Service Award

The Herb Lazenby Community Service Award was created to recognize an individual’s outstanding commitment to service within their community. The award carries the name of its inaugural recipient, Dr. Herb Lazenby, whose name became synonymous with Community Service here in the Coachella Valley.



Previous recipients included Dick Taylor, Kevin Bass, Lily Tomlin, Andy Linsky, Arlene Rosenthal, Michael Childers, Brian Wanzek / Bella DaBall, Rabbi Sally Olins, Joyce Shampeny, Richard DeSantis, and John Williams. Last year’s recipient was Laurie Weitz and the 2018 recipient is Desert Tennis Association, represented by Nabil Najar.


Frank Jurczyk Volunteer Award

Without volunteers, no non-profit organization could survive, let alone thrive. AAP – Food Samaritans operates with only two full-time staff members, and relies on the dedication and commitment of an amazing group of volunteers. This award is named after Frank Jurczyk, who was a volunteer and cornerstone of our program for many years. Frank was the organization’s right arm in the late ‘90s when we operated with a staff of one. In honor of him, AAP frequently honors volunteers who make a significant contribution.


Previous recipients include Vinnie Stoppia, Dana Adkins, Jay Horwitz, Jeffrey Bach, and Bob Crebo. The 2018 recipients are Angela Slater and Denise Haslam.


Joanna Jakway Community Hero Award

This award was created in 2011 to recognize and honor the critical contributions of AAP co-founder and Palm Springs resident and community activist Joanna Jakway, whose role in the organization’s formation had been unintentionally overlooked in the past.


At the 2011 Evening Under the Stars, in commemoration of the 20th anniversary of the founding of AAP – Food Samaritans, the inaugural Joanna Jakway Community Hero Award was given to Jackie Lee and Jim Houston in honor of the countless lives they have touched. Other recipients have included John Federbusch and Gary Frey, Steve Kaufer, and Jane Wagner. Last year the recipient was awarded posthumously to Bob Pollock. There is no 2018 recipient.


Corporate Angel Award

The Corporate Angel Award was inaugurated in 2016 to occasionally recognize outstanding corporate partners that have supported AAP – Food Samaritans consistently and with an abundance of heart. The inaugural recipient was Walgreen’s and the recipient last year was Eisenhower Medical Center. There is no 2018 recipient.


Over the last 25 years, Evening Under the Stars has continued to highlight awareness of the organization and raise significant funds to enable AAP – Food Samaritans to continue its mission to provide important nutritional support to those who need it the most. It has also provided an opportunity to acknowledge a wide selection of community heroes and provide an exciting and memorable show to all who attend. AAP is proud of the last 25 years of entertainment and fundraising and looks forward to continuing this wonderful evening for many years to come.