Sharing the love

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A Japanese Cherry having its bud break. Photo: JH.

Wednesday, April 5, 2023. A much much warmer day, yesterday in New York with temps touching 70 degrees by early sunny afternoon, and clouding over by late afternoon.

The city is still on the quiet side as if not all have returned from their much warmer southern visits (like Miami and Palm Beach), but the buds are budding big time now with the daffodils joining the forsythia in full bloom with some of the flowering trees joining in.

Another Japanese Cherry much further along.

Coming up; Good works. Jackie Weld Drake hosted an evening at her Upper East Side apartment to celebrate the upcoming Harlem School of the Arts Gala. She was joined by the twin daughters of Nat King Cole Casey Cole-Ray and Timolin Cole-Augustus who flew up from their homes in Palm Beach to join her. The sisters’ organization, Nat King Cole Generation Hope, and Jackie’s beloved Casita Maria both advocate arts education for all children.

After warm thanks to their hostess, the Cole sisters explained that, “As the daughters of Nat King Cole and sisters of Natalie Cole, we were bestowed much more than the Cole name; that is — the spirit and passion of a father and daughter who cherished the privilege of bringing harmony to people through their music.

Mercedes Bograd Levin, Timolin Cole-Augustus, Jackie Weld Drake, Casey Cole-Ray, and Martha Bogart.

On May 1st, the Harlem School of the Arts will honor their father and sister’s legacy in tandem with their father’s charity. On a special note, the sisters added that the day of their meeting marked the diamond anniversary of their parents who would be celebrating 60 years, adding “In both their memories, we encourage you to share love with the world today.”

Then James C. Horton, President of Harlem School for the Arts, shared, “At HSA, we are uniquely positioned at the intersection of arts, community, education and social justice. And we are dedicated to bringing equity of opportunity to every student, regardless of their socio-economic status. Our mission is to ensure that all children have access to the transformational power of the arts.”

Anne Dexter-Jones, Timolin Cole-Augustus, Casey Cole-Ray, and James C. Horton.

Guests included Jackie’s sisters Martha Bograd and Mercedes Bograd Levin, as well as Marc Rosen (whose late wife Arleen Dahl knew Nat King Cole from her days at the Copacabana). Also attending were the new executive director of Casita Maria, Felix  Urrutia, as well as Steven Aronson, Cricket and Richard Burns, Dr. Karen Burke Goulandris, Susan Cheever, Anne Dexter-Jones, Terry Frankenberger, Patti Kim, Michele Gerber Klein, Helen Little, Yeou-Cheng Ma, Liane Pei, Kathy Sloane, Benny Tabatabai, Ted Taylor, and Chris Walling.

Nat King Cole and wife Maria Cole, with twin daughters Timolin and Casey c. 1964

The Cole sisters co-founded Nat King Cole Generation Hope, Inc., a 501c(3) non-profit, to provide equal access to music instruction, mentorship and resources for underserved, economically disadvantaged youth in under-resourced communities. Their organization addresses the predicaments of many in the public education systems where schools lack funding for enrichment; as well as parents who cannot afford lessons or to buy/rent instruments, and talented music teachers who do so much with so little. Nat King Cole Generation Hope ultimately supports the child, the music instructor, and the school.
For more than a half century now, Harlem School of the Arts has built a community centered around a dynamic global curriculum, with a focus on diasporas of prominence in Harlem and Upper Manhattan.

Of the nearly 5,000 students who participate in HSA programs, more than 85% are African American or Latino and nearly 50% of students taking classes at the facility receive financial assistance.

Casita Maria, which is headquartered in the South Bronx, is another outstanding example of these good works. It was established in 1934 by Claire and Elizabeth Sullivan as the first charitable organization to serve Latinos in New York City. The Sullivan sisters had a primary mission to offer after school enrichment and recreational activities for the children of newly arrived families from Puerto Rico.

Today, Casita Maria, still dedicated to its original mission, delivers services to the mostly Latino youth, and families of the Hunts Point community it serves in the Bronx. Casita Maria now works out of a state-of-the-art facility encompassing performance spaces, exhibition gallery, dance, and music studios, and more on its Simpson Street campus. To learn more about Casita Maria, visit:

Benny Tabatabai and Michele Gerber Klein.
Christopher Walling, Steven Aronson, Jodi Tam, and Susan Cheever.
Felix Urrutia, Hila Mina, and Ynette Bruno.
Helen Little and Valentina Galardo.
Jackie Weld Drake and Galit Kursman.
Jason Milstein, Allegra Nina Toram, Tiffany Dubin, and Benny Tabatabai.
John Hare, Claire Hare, and Patti Kim.
Marc Rosen and Shaunna St. John.
Mercedes Bograd Levin, Jackie Weld Drake, Timolin Cole-Augustus, Kathy Sloane, and Dr. Karen Burke.
Steven Aronson, Timolin Cole-Augustus, and Casey Cole-Ray.
Robin Dubin Avram,  Tiffany Dubin, Ted Taylor, and Terry Frankenberger.
Rex and Sonoko Niswander.

More heart and soul. Last week at Cipriani Wall Street, HeartShare held its Spring Gala. The gala honored the achievements of extraordinary individuals committed to helping people in the community live their best lives.

Dawn Saffayeh, President and Chief Executive Officer, HeartShare Human Services of New York, presided over the gala for the first time. HeartShare board chair Paul J. Torre hosted the gala.

Harry Lennix, star of the hit NBC series The Blacklist, was honored with the 2023 Heart of a Champion Award, which is given to a person whose commitment to family and community transforms the landscape for underserved and marginalized populations. Jeff Marchetti presented the award to Harry Lennix.

Harry Lennix and Jeff Marchetti.

Vincent F. Pitta, Esq., Chairman and Managing Member of Pitta Bishop & Del Giorno LLC, was honored with the 2023 HeartShare Visionary Award, which is presented to a person whose work honors our past, shapes our present, and transforms our future by building a foundation for success for HeartShare and the community it supports. HeartShare board member Kenneth P. Nolan, Esq. presented the award to Vincent F. Pitta, Esq.

Vincent F. Pitta, Dawn Saffayeh, and Kenneth P. Nolan.

Joshua Lamberg, Founder and CEO, Lamb Insurance Services, was presented with the 2023 Catherine White Achievement Award, which is presented to a person whose career achievements benefit at-risk populations, particularly those with intellectual and developmental disabilities, children, and youth. Dawn Saffayeh presented the award.

Joshua Lamberg and Dawn Saffayeh.

HeartShare board members attending the gala included: Arleen Baez, Joseph R. Benfante, Esq., Reverend Patrick S. Flanagan, Matthew Lipsky, Joseph Malone, Frank J. Maresca, Kenneth P. Nolan, Esq., Peter E. Pisapia, Esq., Renee V. McClure, Christine E. Strehle, and Paul J. Torre.

More VIPS attending the gala included: Jeff & Nicole Marchetti, Anya Banerjee, Clayton McInerney, Hisham Tawfiq, Djena Graves Lennix, Aida Turturro, Jimmy Biberi, Maysoon Zayid, and Kathrine Narducci.

HeartShare Human Services of New York nurtures and empowers children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities, including autism spectrum disorders, through education, life skills and vocational training, employment, residential, case management, recreational, individual and family supports, and health care services.

The 2023 HeartShare Spring Gala.

Affiliates include The HeartShare School, which offers quality education and therapies to children with autism, HeartShare Wellness, which provides therapies and counseling, as well as case management to those with developmental disabilities and people with chronic conditions, and HeartShare St. Vincent’s Services (HSVS), which supports children, adults, and families living in crisis due to experiences with poverty.

Since its founding in 1914, HeartShare has expanded its reach to over 100 program sites in Brooklyn, Queens, and Staten Island, as well as to 60 of the 62 New York counties through energy grants to low-income families.

90% of all revenue goes directly to its programs and services. HeartShare is accredited by the Council on Accreditation of Services for Families and Children and is a Better Business Bureau Accredited Charity. For more information, visit:

2023 HeartShare honorees Harry Lennix, Vincent F. Pitta, and Joshua Lamberg.
Kathrine Narducci, Hisham Tawfiq, and Anya Banerjee.
L. to r.: Jimmy Biberi and Aida Turturro; Nicole and Jeff Marchetti.
Paul J. Torre, Dawn Saffayeh, Harry Lennix, Djena Graves Lennix, Vincent F. Pitta, and Joshua Lamberg.
L. to r.: Mr. and Mrs. Paul J. Torre; Terrel Livingston.
L. to r.: Maysoon Zayid; Clayton McInerney and Anya Banerjee.
Aida Turturro and Kathrine Narducci.
L. to r.: Mr. and Mrs. Vincent F. Pitta; Djena Graves Lennix and Harry Lennix.
Honoree Joshua Lamberg.

Meanwhile on the West Coast, The North American Premiere of Christopher Wheeldon’s latest evening-length ballet Like Water for Chocolate, took place on March 29th at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts in Costa Mesa, California.

Performed by American Ballet Theatre, the official dance company of Segerstrom Center for the Arts, the three-act ballet is set to an original score by Joby Talbot and inspired by Laura Esquivel’s best-selling novel of the same name which was also adapted into a beloved movie. The ballet’s World Premiere took place last year at London’s Royal Ballet and will be a centerpiece of ABT’s upcoming summer season at Lincoln Center here in New York.

Catherine Hurlin.
Cassandra Trenary and Herman Cornejo.

Prior to the performance, Elizabeth Segerstrom and Connie Spenuzza welcomed 150 guests to an elegant dinner. Alfonso Ramirez of The Patina Group created a special three-course menu to set the stage for the ballet. A trio of Sea of Cortez Mexican Shrimp, corn arepas, and fried squash blossoms was followed by the duet entrée of Mexican striped bass and filet with corn equites, baby squash, ranchero salsa, and cilantro. For dessert, guests enjoyed cacao cake with sweet corn madeleine, sliced strawberries, and coconut Chantilly cream.

Following the performance, South Coast Plaza hosted a themed cast party, with beautiful flowers and vivid colors in the lobby of the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall. Chef Alfonso continued with his menu inspired by Tita’s cookery in Like Water for Chocolate, Chiles en Nogada (chiles in walnut sauce), the final dish of the novel; hot chocolate made with single-source premium vanilla from Veracruz; and Mexican wedding cookies, a tribute to the novel’s final chapter.

Flowers, including the story’s iconic red roses, were used extensively as garnishes. The signature cocktail for the evening was the Tita Margarita, with Patron Silver, Patron Citronage, fresh lime juice, and agave.

Elizabeth Segerstrom and ABT Gillespie student.

Among the guests: Susan Jaffe, Artistic Director of American Ballet Theatre; choreographer Christopher Wheldon, CEO of fashion brand BB Dakota Gloria Brandis, co-founder of CREATE CA Malissa Shriver and Bobby Shriver and cast members Scout Forsythe, Blaine Hoven, Devon Teuscher, Paulina Waski, Katie Williams, and Herman Cornejo. Segerstrom Center Board Chair Jane Fujishige Yada; Elizabeth Segerstrom; Connie and Peter Spenuzza; additional underwriters Walter and Lana Parsadayan, Mary Cramer, Jackie Glass, Stewart Smith, Sam & Tammy Tang, Michelle Rohé, George & Terry Schreyer. Also in attendance were Bart and Avery Barth, ABT Board Chair, Segerstrom Center for the Arts board members and loyal supporters Jaynine Warner, Shanaz and Jack Langson, Gaddi Vasquez, Jennifer and Anton Segerstrom, Mary and Phil Lyons, John Stratman and Naomi and Casey Reitz, president of Segerstrom Center.

L. to r.: Christine Shevchenko and Alex DiMattia; Olivia Tweedy.
The Spenuzza family.
L. to r.: Calvin Royal III; Alex Meneses.
Elizabeth Segerstom, Bobby Shriver, and Susan Jaffe.
Susan Jaffe, Bart Barth, and Janet Rolle.
Elizabeth Segerstrom and Connie Spenuzza-Segerstrom.
L. to r.: George and Terry Schreyer; Casey Reitz and Christopher Wheeldon.
Elizabeth Segerstrom and ABT Gillespie students.

Catching up: The Jewish Museum held its 37th annual Purim Ball at the Plaza, and it raised a record $3.2 million for the museum. More than 1200 distinguished guests were in attendance for the festive dinner and the After Party hosted by the Museum’s Young Patrons group.

The event honored Brad S. Karp, Chairman, Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP, and Bang on a Can, the multi-faceted performing arts organization. There was also a special tribute to Claudia Gould, who is stepping down as the Museum’s director in June, given by the Museum’s Board chairman Robert Pruzan.

Brad Karp and Eric Goldstein.
Jewish Museum Director Claudia Gould.

The historic Plaza was transformed by David Stark Design and Production, with decor inspired by the Museum’s current exhibition, The Sassoons.

The cocktail reception.
Brad Karp.
Bang on a Can.

Guests were escorted to dinner with an electrifying performance by the Grammy-nominated musical collective Innov Gnawa. Dinner began with a surprise performance by the Young People’s Chorus of New York City singing an original composition by Bang on a Can. The Choir of Trinity Wall Street closed the dinner program with a moving performance of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah.

Innov Gnawa.
Young Peoples Chorus of New York City.

Throughout the evening, guests were treated to tarot card readings by Larry & Raven: The ESP Couple, enjoyed the signature cocktail Pomegranate Rosemary Tito’s Fizz, made with Tito’s Handmade Vodka, and took their photos at the Smilebooth. Music was provided by DJ Timo Weiland.

It was a great evening with a good time had by all!

Alexis Opal and Brittany Levy.
Leon Black Jerry Speyer.
DJ Timo Weiland.
Jewish Museum Young Patrons After Party Committee.

Photographs by Jared Siskin (HSA); Ben Rosser & Brendon Cook/ (Jewish Museum);  Lauren Hillary, Ryan Miller, & Lisa Renee Baker (ABT);  Mike Coppola (HeartShare).

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