There was more to the Rotary Club of Los Altos’ annual Cioppino Dinner and Auction than a hearty meal of crab, prawns and lasagna, as attendees gathered March 7 to offer their support to veterans.
Spearheaded by Rotary Club President Jack Kelly and co-chaired by Ron Labetich and Tracie Murray, the event netted more than $20,000 for the Capt. Matthew P. Manoukian Memorial Scholarship Fund for student-veterans at the Foothill College Veterans Resource Center.
The Rotary Club’s Veterans Support Committee provides mentoring, offers guidance for veterans’ benefits and legal issues and works in partnership with Teresa Ong, director of Disabled Student Services and the Veterans Resource Center, and Carmela Xuereb, veterans program specialist at Foothill College. The Rotary Club supports the student-veterans at the Foothill College Veterans Resource Center as they pursue their education and career training.
“The cioppino feed started in 1972 during my year as president of the Rotary Club of Los Altos. This year’s was the biggest and best ever,” said Dick Henning.
Henning said the Foothill College veterans in attendance, even though they were invited guests, insisted on helping serve and clean up afterward.
“They are an outstanding group of young people, and it is most appropriate that the funds go to the vets’ scholarship program,” he said.
Packed to capacity, the Shoup Park Garden House was abuzz with activities, an auction and gratitude for the veterans’ service.
“The standing ovation saluting the veterans was the highlight for me,” Labetich said.
The evening featured a big surprise: Daniel Brenner, a veteran attending Foothill College, proposed to Joanne Johnson. Accepting a bouquet of flowers, Johnson said: “I will,” to the relief and excitement of the cheering crowd.
Brenner, a U.S. Marines veteran who was stationed in Iraq, got down on one knee to propose to his stunned girlfriend.
“It was pretty cool,” he said with a big smile. “She was like a deer in the headlights.”
He credited Rotarians and the Veterans Resource Center with helping him get his own business, Daniel’s Candles, off the ground. He donated candles to sell, with proceeds benefiting the Manoukian Scholarship Fund.
“As we continue the Rotary Club of Los Altos’ well-established tradition of providing assistance and support to returning veterans, may I summarize that tonight’s gratifying mission was accomplished by all involved,” said Kelly, who served as the evening’s master of ceremonies.
Lina Broydo is a member of the Rotary Club of Los Altos.