26 Years of Giving Back to the Community

By Michael Heinrich

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.

“AAP – Food Samaritans could not fulfill our mission without the dedication and support of the incredible people and organizations that support us,” said Mark Anton, CEO/Executive Director of AAP – Food Samaritans. “Without their caring and inspirational leadership, we would not be able to support the nutritional needs of those low-income individuals living with HIV/AIDS and other chronic illnesses in our community. We are so very grateful for their unyielding kindness that they exhibit on a daily basis not only for AAP, but for many other organizations across the entire Coachella Valley.”

Evening Under the Stars is the largest annual fundraiser for AAP – Food Samaritans. Gala festivities will begin with a ‘definitively Palm Springs’ sunset cocktail hour at 5:30 PM on the grounds of the O’Donnell Golf Club against a backdrop of the majestic San Jacinto Mountains, widely regarded as one of the most festive cocktail receptions of the season. A short awards program will recognize the inspirational honorees, followed by a delicious dinner, and dancing.

The event will feature a performance by ARRIVAL From Sweden, an ABBA show band that includes some of ABBA’s original musicians. ARRIVAL From Sweden looks and sounds so much like the original ABBA it’s no surprise that they are the only ABBA tribute band officially sanctioned by the four original ABBA band members. ARRIVAL formed in 1995, and since then the band has toured in 60 countries, and has sold out arenas and venues all over the world. ABBA, one of the best-selling music artists of all time, is experiencing a renewed surge in popularity due in part to the 2008 film “Mama Mia” and its recent sequel “Mama Mia, Here We Go Again” which features a cameo by Cher. Just recently Cher has released an album of covers of some of ABBA’s greatest hits.

Evening Under the Stars has featured the talents of a wide variety of entertainers. In 2014, an electrifying performance by 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 – had everyone on their feet with an amazing night of 70’s dance music. Over the years, headliners Nell Carter, Tyne Daly, Melissa Manchester, Jane Oliver, Lorna Luft, Bea Arthur, Barry Manilow, Nancy Wilson, Lily Tomlin and the entire remaining cast of Laugh In, Mary Wilson of The Supremes, Pink Martini, The B-52s, The Go-Go’s, Cyndi Lauper, Darlene Love, Village People, Martha Reeves & the Vandellas, and Gladys Knight have all taken the stage in support of this very worthy cause. And this year back by popular demand ARRIVAL from Sweden.

ARRIVAL from Sweden was founded by Vicky Zetterberg in 1995 in Gothenburg, Sweden and very soon became one of the world’s most popular and most selling ABBA show band. Since the start in 1995 the band has toured in 60 countries and has appeared in several TV and radio shows all over the world. Since 2005 ARRIVAL from Sweden has made 56 successful tours in the USA.

ARRIVAL from Sweden in the production ”The Music of ABBA” has sold out arenas and venues all over the world since 1995 and is the absolute best and most authentic ABBA show there is. Hits like: Dancing Queen, Mamma Mia, Does Your Mother Know, Take A Chance, SOS, The Winner Takes It All, Super Trouper, Money Money Money, Waterloo, Honey Honey, Fernando, Chiquitita, Knowing Me Knowing You, Thank You For The Music, Lay All Your Love On Me, Gimme Gimme Gimme and many more are delivered with such accuracy that it’s hard to believe that it’s not the real ABBA on stage.

ARRIVAL From Sweden has also played with more than 60 symphony orchestras throughout the world. Successful shows with some of the finest orchestras in the USA such as Boston Symphony Orchestra, San Francisco Symphony Orchestra, Dallas Symphony Orchestra, Houston Symphony Orchestra and Atlanta Symphony Orchestra.

ARRIVAL from Sweden is the only group that has been given a previously unreleased ABBA song directly from Björn Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson of ABBA. The song “Just A Notion” will be due for a worldwide release.

This production has all the features a great ABBA show needs: lovely costumes, extremely talented musicians and breathtaking singers. Millions of people all around the world celebrate this show as the best ABBA show in the world; in fact this is the only ABBA show the world needs. This production is the closest you will ever get to see ABBA!

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 that 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.

About The Awards And This Year’s Honorees

Ruta Lee

Jeannette Rockefeller Humanitarian Award

Certainly one of Hollywood’s most glamorous ladies and actresses, Ruta Lee is also one of its most multifaceted and top-notch civic contributors.

Lee is highly acclaimed for her leadership role in The Thalians, a charitable organization that is committed to good mental health from pediatric to geriatric. She has been either chairman or president for more than 45 years. Ruta has been a very staunch supporter of AAP – Food Samaritans for decades. She has served as Commissioner on the Los Angeles Board of Environmental Quality and as a member of the Economic Development Board, acted as a national spokesperson for the American Cancer Society, was honored Woman of the Year by B’nai B’rith, received the Humanitarian Award from the Beverly Hills Business Women’s Association as well as top honors from the City of Hope. She is also the proud recipient of a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, which added to her stars on the Palm Springs Walk of Stars and the Celebrity Walk at the Thalians Mental Health Center, Cedars-Sinai, makes it a Triple Crown for a super gal. More recently, Ruta was honored as a “Woman of Achievement” by Northwood University, joining a roster of some of the most prestigious women in America.

About the 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 contributed their energy, commitment, and influence to raise awareness and funding for important issues including HIV/AIDS.

Glenn Johnson And Michael Melancon

Gloria Greene Inspiration Award

Glenn Johnson and Michael Melancon have been long time supporters of AAP – Food Samaritans and Evening Under the Stars. Glenn has had a long and successful career with Alaska Air Group and has served most recently as President of Horizon Air. Mike has a 30-year background in human resources management and is the Effectiveness Practice Leader for The Washington Firm and is also an ordained Zen Buddhist chaplain.

In addition to AAP – Food Samaritans, Glenn and Mike have been involved with numerous charities and philanthropic organizations including the Swedish Medical Center Foundation, where the couple supports the organization through annual gifts and has included it in their estate planning. Mike is also a member of the Foundation’s board of governors and serves on its community health advisory committee. They also donate their time and financial support to several other community organizations, including the Bailey Boushay House, where Michael volunteers with seriously ill and hospice patients; the Swedish Ballard Teen Center; the Loving Work Foundation in Vietnam; and Central Washington University, where Glenn is a trustee.

About the 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. Since 1999, The Gloria Greene Inspiration Award has celebrated Gloria’s insight, commitment and passion, illustrating the difference that can be made in a community.

Ron deHarte

Greater Palm Springs Pride

Herb Lazenby Community Service Award

Ron deHarte has been the President of Greater Palm Springs Pride since 2012. Under his guidance, Pride has steadily grown, bringing in an estimated 100,000 visitors this year, who contributed $22 million to the local economy.

Ron is a recognized human rights and diversity champion and currently serves as chairman of the City of Palm Springs Human Rights Commission. Ron’s long history of involvement in the LGBT community includes a primary focus on supporting LGBT youth and youth related programs. He serves as President of Greater Palm Springs Pride, President of Safe Schools of the Desert, Co-President of the United States Association of Pride and is a member of the board of the Consolidated Association of Pride and InterPride, the international association of Pride organizers. Prior to moving to the Coachella Valley, Ron was the Executive Director of San Diego Pride for five years. In 2011 he teamed up with Safe Schools to secure the Palm Springs Art Museum as the venue for the annual LGBT Prom, which now hosts 500 students. As founding chairman of the Harvey Milk Diversity Breakfast, Ron led the way to adopt youth programs as its beneficiary. Over the last seven years, $124,000 has been raised to directly support area GSA and LGBT youth driven activities.

About the 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.

Tickets for the benefit, priced at $395 and $500 per person, are available for purchase and individual VIP seats and sponsorships are also available. Congratulatory tribute ads for the honorees in the gala program are available until March 29. To attend or for more information, call 760-325-8481 or visit aapfoodsamaritans.org.


Date: Saturday, May 4, 2019

Location: O’Donnell Golf Course

Arrivals, Cocktails, Silent Auction: 5:30pm

Dinner, Awards & Entertainment: 7:00pm

Attire: Creative Festive Attire