What began as a labor of love nearly 40 years ago has grown into a fun and beloved annual tradition for a network of friends and leaders from around the Diocese and Orange County’s construction, development, civic and real estate sectors.
On April 18, over 400 guests filled the main ballroom at the Ritz-Carlton in Laguna Niguel for the 36th annual Gentlemen’s Haberdashery fundraiser luncheon to raise over $300,000 for the Sisters of the Society Devoted to the Sacred Heart of Jesus to operate and maintain the Heart of Jesus Retreat Center in Santa Ana. The guests enjoyed champagne, lunch and beautiful ocean views from the balcony.
“We don’t really call this a fundraiser but rather a ‘friend raiser,’” said Jeremy Laster, co-chairperson of this year’s event and also vice president and treasurer of Rancho Mission Viejo. “Everybody in the room knows each other. It’s a family reunion. Everything goes into supporting the sisters.”
The center, which opened its doors 25 years ago, has hosted retreats for over 350,000 children through the Kids Club program.
“They deepen in their faith and their relationship with God. We help give them a strong foundation to make good moral decisions and choices in their life,” said Sister Paula Sawhill. “We help them to know their own dignity as a human being made in the image of God, to know the worth and dignity of each person and that they would have that sense of respect for themselves and others and also a spirit of service.”
In 1978, the sisters moved to Santa Ana and offered retreats out of an old three-car garage that hosted 30 children a day. Sister Ida Peterfy, founder of the Society Devoted to the Sacred Heart, envisioned a bigger facility that would allow them to invite more children. She met with then-Orange County Supervisor Thomas Riley and Rancho Mission Viejo President Anthony Moiso and their wives for their support. The idea of the first Gentlemen’s Haberdashery fundraiser was created to raise money for the renovation and expansion of the garage. The newly expanded retreat center opened its doors in 1992, offering a 5,000-square-foot chapel, conference rooms, recreation areas, indoor and outdoor dining areas, kitchens, gift shop, office, garden and parking.
The Gentlemen’s Haberdashery Committee continues the tradition today to support the maintenance and operational costs of the center. One of the highlights of the event every year is a song and dance performance by the children of the Sacred Heart Kids Club. This year, the club theme was “I pray” where students learn different forms of prayer. The sisters and children performed two songs focusing on the theme. The children put on hats for the first song and sang to the tapping of a drum while Sister Micaela Ramirez rapped twice during the performance. The sisters also coordinated a thank you card project with the children. Every guest received a card with a letter from every child attending a retreat at the center, thanking them for their support.
“We are here because we want to express our gratitude to each and everyone of you,” said Sister Micaela Ramirez. “We are just some of the few faces that represent the thousands of children that have come to the Heart of Jesus Retreat Center. Some of the thank you cards that you receive today were made by those children, written by those children that have come perhaps year after year. Some of them come starting at preschool, then kindergarten, then first grade, all the way until their 8th grade graduation year. Some of them come maybe once a year. We have young children, adults, senior citizens who come to the Heart of Jesus Retreat Center and every single time when they leave they have actually expressed such a gratitude for this place. It’s a place where they can experience peace. A place where they can grow in their relationship with God and your being here actually supports that. Your help provides a place where people can come to know Him and love Him. And for that we are so very grateful.”
The children were also given the names of every sponsor and guest at the event to pray for every night.
Guests also enjoyed a fun fashion show performed by 40 of Orange County’s most notable gentlemen, wearing the latest spring and summer fashion from Gary’s, Hilburn, Toes on the Nose, St. Croix and Boot Barn. The men are leaders in the Diocese as well as in the construction, development, sales and real estate fields. Among them were presidents, athletic directors and head coaches from JSerra and Santa Margarita High Schools, showcasing summer fashion.
“Years ago we would have General Lyon from Lyon Homes be the model but now it’s Billy Lyon, General Lyon’s son,” said Laster. “So it’s a fun thing to generationally pass this down. We’re trying to get the next generation of Catholic leadership, of civic leadership, development leadership.”