By Zach Chouteau
The Santa Fe Neighborhood Council (SFNC) hosted the 22nd annual edition of its Hug-a-Bear Dinner last Friday evening, and the yearly celebration drew a packed house to the Galileo Club that included plenty of notable Richmonders.
“We have officially outgrown the Hotel Mac,” Event Chair Linda Jackson Whitmore of the SFNC told the 100-plus cheering revelers that included Richmond Mayor Tom Butt and his wife, City Manager Bill Lindsay, Supervisor John Gioia and Police Chief Allwyn Brown.
For those unfamiliar with the unique affair, dinner-goers are asked to bring a new teddy bear or other stuffed toy to donate to the Richmond Police and Fire Departments, who hand out the furry friends to children in crises during the course of their duties. This year’s special guest speaker, Captain Louie Tirona, shared some personal experiences of how the simple act of handing a young child a stuffed animal can help a kid through a traumatic situation, from drive-by shootings to domestic abuse.
During the meal, event-goers ‘introduced’ the specific teddy bear they were donating to the cause, and expressed their heartfelt sentiments that their gift would bring cheer to these children who need it the most.
SFNC Officers were on hand in full force as well, including President Vernon Whitmore, VP Daryl Henline, Treasurer Suzanne Coffee, Sergeant at Arms Jerrold Hattchet and Neighborhood Beautification officer Gilda Harrell. The group took a nice moment to present their deep gratitude—and a bouquet of flowers—to outgoing Secretary Ana Crespin, who has been a key part of the SFNC for more than eight years.
In addition to helping children in crisis with the teddy bear donations, the event—which charged $40 for a full gourmet dinner—helped raise proceeds for special programs at Nystrom Elementary School. Event sponsors were Levin Richmond Terminal, East Bay Clay and Batch, Golden Gate Meats, Oren’s Kitchen, California Delicious, La Chat, Grumpy Goats Olive Oil, Aunt Snazzy Gourmet Cookies, Sims Metal Management, and Bridge Storage & Art Space.