By Carolyn Livengood
Actress Rita Moreno, the only Hispanic and one of 14 performers who have won an Emmy, a Grammy, an Oscar, and a Tony, voluntarily stepped to the microphone and promptly raised $25,300 for HIP Housing during a live auction held May 31 at the nonprofit's annual Luncheon Celebration.
Moreno, a vivacious 81 years young, was a special guest speaker at the gala held at the Hotel Sofitel in Redwood City and attended by 325 people who were welcomed by HIP Housing President Bruce Bean.
Comedian Dan St. Paul provided plenty of laughs while serving as master of ceremonies.
Unable to attend the event, Congresswoman Jackie Speier sent a video greeting and HIP Housing Executive Director Kate Comfort Harr gave opening remarks.
The event raised a total of nearly $117,000, which included funds from the live auction and a Fund-a-Need, both conducted by state Senator Jerry Hill and Colma Councilwoman Helen Fisicaro. The Fund-a-Need benefited HIP Housing's affordable housing programs: Home Sharing, Property Development, and Self-Sufficiency.
"I've not been homeless, but I can talk about being unsettled." said Moreno. She said that, although her mother worked hard in sweatshops to make a home for her after they came by ship to America from Puerto Rico, they still moved tenement to tenement in New York City in her early years.
"Looking back on my life and the unsettling times, I realize it has shaped me. Safe, affordable housing is such an important part of the equation. I've been all over the world but, to me, there is simply no place like home."
Sybil Bolivar, a Home Sharing provider since 2000, and Lorelie Rabino, a Self-Sufficiency participant, shared their inspiring stories about how HIP Housing helps them.
"The interview process and efforts to provide a comfortable match between the home sharer and home provider was very impressive and gave me the feeling of security and protection with this program," said Bolivar. "The Home Sharing Agreement prepared by HIP Housing provided detailed expectations and procedures for both parties, which eliminated many of the problems adults sometimes have when attempting to fit into the home of another."
Rabino, a single mother of three who had just started school, became homeless after leaving violence at home but, luckily, a teacher told her about HIP Housing in San Mateo.
"Without the Self-Sufficiency Program and all the great and awesome social workers, I wouldn't have been able to finish my education and receive my bachelor's degree in business with concentration in corporate and real estate management and minor in psychology from Cal State East Bay Hayward," said Rabino. "I have been in the Self-Sufficiency Program since 2006 and will be graduating from the program this July."
Kirsten Davison, Anthony Garcia, and Patrik Wijkstrom were presented awards for providing consulting services to create a social media plan and an agency strategic plan for HIP Housing.
After the program was over, Moreno conducted a signing of her recently published book, "Rita Moreno: A Memoir." Books Inc. donated a portion of the book sales to HIP Housing.
Boston Private Bank & Trust Co., Facebook, John McNellis, Pacific Gas and Electric Co., San Mateo Credit Union, and Wells Fargo were the major benefactors of the event.