9 posts categorized "Memorable"


“Noche of China Moon” Glowing with Thanks

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On Saturday August 5, 2017, over 300 guests joined together on the night of the full moon to celebrate La Luz Center’s mission “to be a catalyst for change in Sonoma Valley through health, education and financial security.”

The “Noche of China Moon” event raised over $450,000 for La Luz Center, confirming the extent of gratitude and appreciation in our community.

As guests entered Sonoma Veterans Memorial Hall, they were astounded to find it was magically transformed into a Chinese banquet hall complete with brilliant red décor and illuminated by large gold lanterns.  Many celebrated the theme by wearing traditional Chinese attire.

Marcelo Defreitas, the event’s creator, producer and current La Luz Board President, welcomed the crowd.  “I stand in this room filled with the most caring and generous people of this community,” he said. “Once again, year after year, I plead that you continue to join me in this effort to make our community more diverse and more inclusive. One where every resident feels like he or she belongs.”  A bountiful Chinese feast, including a dim sum station and such banquet dishes as Peking duck and Mongolian beef, was served by Elaine Bell Catering.  The grand finale dessert was a fragrant pear moon cake.  Guests enjoyed wines by Highway 12 Vineyard and Winery.

La Luz Executive Director Juan Hernandez thanked guests and highlighted the work of the La Luz Center team.  He then introduced Sal Chavez, a La Luz Board member, the youngest person in history to serve on the Sonoma Valley School Board, dedicated family man, business owner and entrepreneur.Stepping onstage accompanied by his father and son, Sal spoke of his parent’s decision to migrate to the U.S. many years ago.  To make a new life in Sonoma Valley, he remembered their hard work and their goal to provide better opportunities for their children.  Sal’s family, representing three generations, mirrored the significant accomplishments of many immigrant families. His story was powerful and heartwarming.

Following Sal’s story, Defreitas launched the Fund-A-Need appeal.  Major supporters jumped in with generous bids.  Nearly every guest raised a paddle.  When Defreitas and Scott Smith offered to match every $100 donation, many donors raised their paddles a second time!

Highlighting the evening’s entertainment was an elegant, sensual, and captivating performance by the Lily Cai Chinese Dance Company of San Francisco.  The Company has received accolades from theater and festival audiences throughout the country and has performed at the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C.  The Melody of China music ensemble, costumed stilted arts players, and Chung Ngai lion dancers provided further enjoyment.  For the traditional Noche finale, guests took the stage for dancing to the music of DJ Jefferson Espinosa.  La Luz is grateful to all supporters who share our mission to help ensure that all Sonoma Valley residents facing challenges are supported and have an opportunity to improve their lives.  

“May we live long and share the beauty of the Moon together”.


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La Luz’s “Noche de Luz” a Success For Sonoma

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“Noche de La Luz,” held this year on Saturday August 6th at Sonoma Veterans Memorial Hall, was a glow-in-the-dark extravaganza of light (“la luz” in Spanish). It was also a great success raising $470,000 for the La Luz Center, funding programs to educate and assist Valley families in need. The event was sold out to 330 lucky guests who came decked out in neon colors and LED lights.

A beautiful young couple clothed in florescent paint posed for souvenir photos with guests during the cocktail hour. Watermelon martinis with Skyy vodka and Highway 12 wines flowed freely. Caterer Elaine Bell’s multi-colored hors d’oeuvres included mini bahn mi, quesadillas, and green cardamom shrimp along with a trio of colorful soups.

Guests were wowed as they entered the dining area that was magically transformed into a psychedelic dream experience. Glow-stick jewelry, flashing top hats of committee members, tables set with black cloths and blue LED lights added to the magic.

Sheila Whitney Stanford sang “Being Alive”, and Marcelo Defreitas, the event’s creator, producer and current La Luz Board President, joined in and welcomed the crowd. “I stand in this room filled with the most caring and generous people of this community,” he said. “Once again, year after year, I plead that you continue to join me in this effort to make our community more diverse and more inclusive. One where every resident feels like he or she belongs.”

Raffle winners were Mike and Mary Schuh of Glen Ellen who have graciously and generously donated their $5,000 prize back to La Luz to support our Information and Referral programs. What a bonus!

Dinner was served family style and included peach crostini starters, char grilled hangar steak and grilled cod, plates of vegetables and an extraordinary crowd-pleasing brown butter corn polenta. The grand finale was a parade of Glowing White Chocolate Splendor adorned with blinking LED lights.

Juan Hernandez, ED of La Luz, introduced 11 year old Fernanda Alvarez, daughter of La Luz clients, whose “dream is to be a singer.” Fernanda wowed the crowd with her rendition of Miley Cyrus’ The“Climb” then broke into tears as she hugged Marcelo, “the man with the biggest heart in Sonoma.”

When the Fund a Need followed Fernanda’s performance, guests opened their hearts and wallets. Major supporters jumped right in and nearly every guest raised a paddle. When Marcelo was joined by three supporters (John Story, Bill Hake and Tom Perkins) who offered to match every $100 donation, donors raised their paddles a second time!

A highlight of the evening’s entertainment was an extraordinary performance by Lightwire Theater based in New Orleans.  They are internationally recognized and have performed on America’s Got Talent. Guests were captivated by the performance of dancers and puppets lit up in a darkened room appeared as flying birds or oversized mythical animals. As has become tradition, as the finale to the party, guests took the stage for dancing to the music of DJ Jefferson Espinosa. 

La Luz is grateful to all supporters (Noche attendees, those who couldn’t get tickets because the event was sold out, raffle ticket buyers) who share our mission –to ensure that Sonoma Valley residents facing all types of challenges have the opportunity to improve their lives.

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La Luz celebrates Cinco de Mayo at Sonoma Plaza

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La Luz Center's "Noche Latina" Tops Out with $452,000


MC Marcelo Defreitas and tango partner Valerie Walter Wow the crowd at Noche Latina. View more photos!

“Noche Latina” held at Glen Ellen’s K2 horse ranch, was a true celebration of La Luz Center’s 30th anniversary and of Sonoma Valley’s Latino heritage. 

The event was sold out to 400 guests who came decked out in red and black “tango” attire and costumed as Frida Khalo, Diego Rivera,  Che Guevarra, Zorro, Carmen Miranda and Evita. 

Volunteers in colorful La Luz tee shirts seemed to be everywhere… there were over 40 people helping park cars, directing traffic, and keeping the party running smoothly.

 “Noche” was a resounding success and raised a record-breaking $452,000 for La Luz Center.    

“The generosity of our donors empowers us and endorses our vision and mission of La Luz Center,” said La Luz Executive Director Juan Hernandez III, “We could not be more humbled and encouraged by what happened tonight. We know our work is embraced by Sonoma Valley.”

 Carlos Herrera band played Latin music for the cocktail hour which took place under majestic oak trees and giant flags of Latino countries.  Guests enjoyed wines by Highway 12 winery, blood orange martinis with Skyy vodka , Argentinian beef empanadas and paella stations.

Mariachi Bello and Los Charros showing their roping talents entertained when the guests promenaded into the elegant Buenos Aires tango lounge lit with chandeliers and candelabra and long tables set with red cloths and black lace. 

Bare-chested matador MC Marcelo Defreitas, the event’s creator and producer, and local attorney Valerie Pistole, in glittering satin, took the huge curtained stage and began the night’s entertainment with a passionate, crowd-pleasing tango.

The consummate entertainer, Defreitas teased guests, played bullfight music and had a bull make a surprise attack on board member Kimberly Blattner, who “didn’t get the memo” about not wearing red.

Dinner by Elaine Bell was served family style and included Latin-inspired beef, fish and vegetable dishes, with tres leches cake for birthday dessert.

A video showcasing La Luz’s expanding work was shown before the Fund a Need, which was a huge vote of confidence from the crowd, topping all former auctions when three donors offered to match hundred- dollar donations.  Paddles flew into the air, and the crowd roared. 

Executive Director Juan Hernandez took the stage for a surprise tribute to Defreitas, thanking him for “giving five years of his life and talents to La Luz.”

Noche Latina is the fifth find raising party Defreitas has created and produced. Taking the community by storm he first took La Luz supporters to his native Brazil’s Copacabana nightclub, a party held at the Sonoma Barracks.  In search of more space, he created a Moroccan Casbah at Hanna Boys Center; then to Jack London Park’s African savannah; the South Pacific gardens of Cline Winery and has finally come full circle back to our valley’s roots with Noche Latina. 

Entertainment for the party included Mexican Ballet Folklorico, Sangre Latina and Aquarela do Brasil dance groups --to the crowd’s delight the sexy Brazilian dancers from the Copacabana made a comeback.  As has become tradition, to cap off a perfect party, guests took the stage for spirited “hang loose” disco dancing. 

La Luz Center has been serving Sonoma Valley for thirty years.  In the past year it has expanded its many services, and with a new collaborative with el Verano School strives to be a catalyst for change through health, education and financial security.








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La Luz Brings Cinco de Mayo Back to the Plaza

5 de mayo 2015

La Luz Center will hold its popular  “Cinco de Mayo” celebration on Sunday, May 3rd from noon to 5:00 p.m. on the Sonoma Plaza.  The event is free to all.

“We are so excited that La Luz is bringing this event back to the Plaza, especially since we are celebrating La Luz’s 30th anniversary this year, and we haven’t held the it there since 2009,” said event coordinator Angie Sanchez. 

Entertainment will provided throughout the afternoon, including by the Mexican folkloric dance company Quetzalen, Mariachi Barragan and Aztec Dance Group Xantotl.

Local vendors will offer traditional food and drinks and there will be  family friendly activities.

The event will feature tables by local businesses and organizations that have been working to promote economic development in the Boyes Hot Springs area.

“We are grateful to all of the community volunteers who have helped to coordinate the Cinco de Mayo celebration and have been extremely generous with their time,” said Eduardo Vasquez La Luz’s Volunteer Coordinator.

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The Cinco de Mayo celebration has been organized by community members, Sonoma Valley High School students, businesses primarily in the Springs area, and volunteers.


NOCHE en SOUTH PACIFIC a Great Success!


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Thank you to all our supporters who made “Noche en South Pacific” our most successful fundraiser ever.”

On Saturday, August 2, Marcelo Defreitas and his Noche committee presented a fun and memorable party to celebrate and support La Luz Center.  

 According to La Luz board president Anna Pier, “over $400,000

was raised.  “These funds will power the new direction La Luz is taking, collaborating with El Verano School and focusing on the areas of health, education and financial security for our Sonoma Valley Community.”

A sold-out crowd of over 450--white clad sailors and guests in Hawaiian shirts and leis --mingled in the lush gardens at Cline Cellars, enjoying passion fruit bikini cocktails with Skye vodka, champagne and wines from Highway 12 and Cline Cellars.

There were fresh caviar and shrimp ceviche stations, and ahi tuna and pork belly hors d’hoeuvres. Rob, Robin and Lynette Lyons brought their tropical macaws, cockatoos, a New Zealand wallaby and a porcupine.

Dinner by Elaine Bell began with a Kalua pig paraded in by native dancers, a Polynesian conch shell call, and a haunting Hawaiian dance blessing. Tiki torches lined the entrance to the dining area.

A dramatic red Polynesian backdrop and stage were set in the gardens, and colorful aquariums lighted the dining tables.

Master of Ceremonies Defreitas, bare-chested in a grass skirt and henna tattoos, delighted the crowd.  “I love you all and I love La Luz!” he said.  “That’s why we work for nine months to give you this party.  It’s a token of our appreciation for you-- our donors!”

Ligia Booker, founder of La Luz and Director Emeritus told of working through the Catholic church to start helping “the almost invisible Hispanic community” 40 years ago.  “Thanks to the involvement of so many people, this community now has an identity and is proud to take its part in the Sonoma Valley community. 

 “The heart of La Luz is empathy and dedication,” said Juan Hernandez, La Luz Center’s Executive Director.  “Hard work is the soul --and you are the hands.”

In a clever outdoor “Mash” shower Sheila Whitney and “island maidens” -- Susan Lee and Abbey Lee (not related) and Sonoma Valley High School students Mariana Garcia and Sofia Williams—delighted the crowd as they sang and danced  “I’m Gonna Wash that Man Right Outa My Hair.”

A rousing performance of Polynesian dancers from Island Breeze entertainment then took over the stage, shaking coconuts and grass skirts.  Defreitas appeared as an intrepid fire dancer, followed by native dancers with swirling fireballs. 

Not a beat was missed as DJ music amped up and the crowd moved its party on to celebrate together on the stage.

La Luz Center envisions a Sonoma Valley community working together where all have equal opportunity to succeed, through support in the areas of health, education and financial security.

The generosity Noche  donors will power this mission.

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Noche Out of Africa -- The Best Ever!

Noche - Web

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A dramatic bi-plane fly-by, wild jungle animals and throngs of  guests in pith helmets and safari attire, African batiks and animal prints set the stage Saturday night for La Luz’s magical “Out of Africa” fundraiser party in Jack London State Park.

“We netted over $350,000, which is a record for La Luz,” marveled Claudia Mendoza-Carruth, board chair of La Luz.  “We are truly overwhelmed by this outpouring of support for our La Luz family.  This “Noche,” and the two previous “Noches,” are gifts of love from our board member Marcelo Defreitas.  He conceives and produces these incredible events, together with a very dedicated committee of volunteers, and he gives his heart and soul to make everything perfect for us. “

Executive Director Juan Hernandez, III, calling La Luz “the light at the end of the tunnel for so many people,” saw the evening as “a resounding validation of our work at La Luz.  We are humbled and grateful to all of you,“  he told the crowd.

Ligia Booker, who founded La Luz over 20 years ago, was touched by “so much love for La Luz, and by so many people.”

Guests were greeted with Sundowner cocktails featuring Skye vodka, and Highway 12 wines, both 3–year sponsors of the Noche event.

The entire Lyons Ranch family  -–Rob, Robin and Lynette--were there with a beautiful cheetah, a snow leopard, an African porcupine and tortoise, a boa and even a python. 

Guests sat at long tables in the old winery ruins.  “I had a farm in Africa…”  began master of ceremonies Defreitas, as a small bi-plane circled above the crowd.  “Look!” he said.  “I think it’s Robert Redford!”

As Dean Carvalho recited Maya Angelou’s evocative poem “Africa,” a background of jungle sounds magically transformed the park into a savanna of the sub-continent.

A delicious African-inspired family-style dinner catered by Ramekins featured savory brined chicken, a chicory and lentil salad, and Moroccan vegetable kebobs.  

 A spectacular 60 foot long screen created by Defreitas’ friend Jaime Pandolfo was a stunning contrast to the perfect night sky.  Huge African masks stood on the sides.  The stage and sound technicians were provided through collaboration with Transcendence Theatre. 

Vibrant, frenetic African dancers and drummers from Diamano Coura West African Dance Company performed after dinner, with a stilt walker, and a dancing voodoo haystack. 

As a thank you to the donors, the El Verano School “ EV Glee” took the stage and to the crowd’s delight sang their favorite song, “Stick with Me.”

A team of 32 dedicated and delightful volunteers played a big part in making “Noche Out of Africa” a seamless, well- organized event.  La Luz Volunteer Coordinator Alyson Therres and our pinch-hitting volunteer, Volunteer Coordinator (who stepped in when Alyson had to be out of town) Sonoma State University student Sander Salguero, worked hard to recruit and organize so many people to do set-up and parking, greeting registration, auction recording, security and clean up during and after the event.  What a great group to have in our La Luz family.  ¡¡Mil gracias!!

And another big GRACIAS to all the wonderful, generous La Luz supporters who enable us to provide so many essential services to our community.  We could not do it without you! 


Noche en Casbah Raises over $300,000!


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La Luz’s Moroccan themed fundraiser, conceived and orchestrated by board member Marcelo Defreitas, with the help of his dedicated Noche Committee, was the best and most successful ever---raising over $300,000!

500 guests glittering in their jeweled caftans, turbans and sultan robes were greeted by Hump-Free the camel, from Lyon Ranch as they entered the Moroccan bazaar at Hanna Boys Center.  The stunning desert scene on the stage was created by Jaime Pandolfo.

IMG1854-LFalafel, kabobs, and cous-cous provided by Elaine Bell Catering were enjoyed by all, as well as Skyy Vodka martinis and wines from Highway 12 Winery.   Auctioneer Ed Vaughn, and our beguiling “genie” Shelia Whitney, entertained the crowd as guests raised their paddles for auction items. 

Board president Claudia Mendoza-Carruth pulled the winning raffle ticket for winners Diane and Henry Mayo.   Yvonne Hall introduced Juan Hernandez III, La Luz’s Executive Director who will assume the position late in August.

The Fund a Need, preceded by a poignant “Thank You, La Luz” video also produced by Defreitas, began with a bang when Alber Saleh and Dean Sereni, followed by Tom and JaMel Perkins, kicked off the bidding at $10,000. Loyal supporters Pam and John Story, Bill and Laurie Hake, and Mark and Linda Brewer each added $5,000. 

As the night grew dark, the brightly colored belly dancers of Troupe Joweh returned to the stage to dance with snakes and swords, and many revelers.

Yvonne Hall, La Luz Executive Director, says,”Noche en Casbah was one of those just-about-perfect evenings -- hundreds of friends of La Luz having a wonderful time and giving generously to support our many programs.  We were thrilled and humbled by the record-breaking response by our guests, and we can't thank Sonoma enough! I'll be retiring at the end of the month with a very full heart.”


"At La Luz Center, everybody wins!"  says winner Diane Mayo, as she receives her $10,000 "Noche en Casbah" prize raffle check from La Luz Executive Director Yvonne Hall.  


“Noche en Casbah,” una fiesta con tema Marroquí con el fín de recaudar fondos para La Luz,  concebido y orquestado por el miembro del consejo Marcelo Defreitas, con la ayuda de su Comité dedicado Noche,  fue el mejor y más exitoso jamás --- recaudando más de $ 300.000!

“Hump-Free” el camello de Rancho Lyon, recibió a los 500 huéspedes, brillantes en sus caftanes, joyas, turbantes y túnicas sultan, cuando entraban en el bazar marroquí en Hanna Boys Center. La escena del desierto impresionante en el escenario fue creado por Jaime Pandolfo.

Falafel, brochetas, y cous cous-proporcionada por Elaine Catering Campana fueron disfrutados por todos, así como martinis de vodka Skyy y vinos de la carretera 12 Winery. Subastador Ed Vaughn, y nuestra seductora "genio" Whitney Shelia, entretuvo a la multitud como invitados levantaron sus remos para artículos de subasta. 

La presidenta de la Junta Claudia Mendoza-Carruth sacó el boleto ganador para perteneciente a Diane Mayo Henry. Yvonne Hall introdujo a Juan Hernández III, Nuevo Director Ejecutivo de La Luz, quien asumirá el cargo a finales de agosto.

El Fondo de la Necesidad, precedido de un conmovedor "Gracias, La Luz" video producido también por Defreitas, comenzó con una explosión cuando Alber Saleh y Dean Sereni, seguido por Tom Perkins y Jamel, dio inicio a la subasta en $ 10.000. Partidarios leales Pam y John Story, Bill y Laurie Hake, y Mark y Linda Brewer sumaron cada uno $ 5.000. 

A medida que la noche se hizo oscura, los colores brillantes bailarines del vientre de Joweh Troupe regresó al escenario para bailar con serpientes y espadas, y muchos juerguistas.

Yvonne Hall, Director Ejecutivo de La Luz, dice, "Noche en Casbah fue una de esas noches justo unos perfectos - cientos de amigos de La Luz pasando muy bien y ofreciendo fondos generosamente para apoyar nuestros programas. Nos quedamos encantados y humillado por la respuesta sin precedentes por nuestros clientes, y no podemos agradecer lo suficiente a Sonoma! Voy a retirarme al final del mes con un corazón muy completo. "


Noche en Copacabana - Largest and Most Successful -Ever!!


“Music and passion” were all the fashion in La Luz Center’s “Noche en Copacabana” party that transformed The Barracks into Havana’s glitzy 1940’s landmark nightclub.  Panama hats, Guayabera shirts, nightclub attire, plenty of bling, and sexy Brazilian dancers made for “the party of the year.”

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Event co-chairs Karen Adelson and Marcelo Defreitas are to be congratulated on creating an event that raised over $300,000, more than double that of last year’s “Noche de Luna.”  Yvonne Hall, La Luz’s Executive Director, called Copacabana “the largest and most successful event we have ever hosted.”

“Carmen Miranda” AKA Sonoma’s favorite chanteuse Sheila Whitney welcomed guests and shook more than her coconuts on the 30 foot stage she shared with auctioneer Ed Vaughn and the 9-piece Cuban “Orquesta La Moderna Tradición.”  Bird of paradise stilt walkers circulated with committee members in their fruit hats as close to 400 La Luz supporters sampled caipirinhas and Elaine Bell’s Cuban-inspired pulled pork and paella.

Ongoing repartee between Vaughn and Whitney kept the audience engaged, laughing and bidding on auction items.  Among the most popular was a luncheon and cooking lesson by Dean Carvalho at Marcelo Defreitas’ home which sold three times for $12,000 total. 

 The La Luz soccer team took the stage for the Fund A Need as Defreitas told of his grandmother in Brazil releasing all her caged birds after a visit to the city.  “We have the chance to remove cages from people’s lives,” he said, with the services La Luz provides the wives, children, brothers and sisters of these men.  

Special thanks go to the hard-working “Noche Machine” volunteer committee: to Patsy Wynne for chairing the raffle that covered all party expenses and more…  to Patrick Jude for creating the 50 stunning jewel-adorned table centerpieces (AND Sheila’s fabulous costume); to Jamie Pandolfo for set design and construction and to Jack Lundgren for making the 15’ tall gold palm trees.  And, again, to William Murray of William’s Automotive on Highway 12, who takes the most wonderful photographs and shares them with all of you.  What a community of support we have!  Thank you all---for your enthusiasm, your time, your checks, and your good will. 

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