Community works together to create a tropical paradise for fundraiser
■ Debbie Vena / Reporter
The evening was hot and sultry, the humidity was high; just a typical early summer night in Hemet. What wasn’t so typical were the tropical silk flowers, tiki carvings and flickering candles that led one upstairs to Naawichum Pomki room of the Hemet Library to the Bow-Wow Meow Luau 2017 – an annual fundraiser for the Ramona Humane Society.
After attendees were lei’d with multiple flower necklaces, they were encouraged to join the short line near the palm frond covered bar, where bottles of water and fruity adult beverages adorned with paper umbrellas were served with a smile. Guests didn’t mind waiting as they networked with the person next to them while deciding which delectable nectar from the volcano gods to choose as they ogled the silent auction treasures. It was surreal, almost like a trip to Disneyland’s Enchanted Tiki Room.
In all, it was a picture perfect evening for the June recognition dinner hosted to honor the volunteers and board members for the Ramona Humane Society, which keeps the animals in the valley healthy and has an excellent live release rate to be proud of to boot.
The 2017 luau was a smashing visual success thanks to Lisa Diehl, Hemet Councilwoman Karlee Meyer, Stacie Jarvis, Jennifer Parsons, Jennie Ragsdale, Travis Diehl and Scott Diehl, who provided the decorations.
The motion-activated birds did sing later, just loud enough that the sounds softly hung in the night air, whispering of rainforest and waterfalls, but didn’t overwhelm conversation. This was the first public event hosted on the library’s top floor.
Library Director Kathye Caines has spent hours in City Council meetings trying to increase the value of the library to the community, which has stimulated many discussions about how to get more use out of the space. The luau is a culmination of these efforts and Jeff Sheppard, CEO for Ramona Humane Society, could not be more grateful for her efforts.
The menu, chosen with a tropical flair, was served by city staffers such as Public Works Director Kris Jensen, who is also chair of the Ramona Humane Society’s board of directors. The enticing aroma of Sweet Baby Janes BBQ, coconut shrimp, kabob skewers and mounds of decoratively cut fresh fruit wafted through the air, whetting everyone’s appetite.
Polynesian dancers gave group lessons while silhouetted by a stunning sunset and palm trees swaying in the breeze behind them.
“The venue was perfect, the night was beautiful and the community came together to show their support of our local humane society and the animals in our care. Thank you,” said a grateful Sheppard.
Past host Golden Era Productions Manager Linda Greilich won the coveted grand prize silent auction – a trip to the TV show “Criminal Minds” for a script reading and a chance to meet the actors. She beamed when the prize was placed in her arms.
Riverside County Third District Supervisor Chuck Washington, Hemet Mayor Linda Krupa and San Jacinto Mayor Scott Miller all spent some time thanking extraordinary community volunteer Daniel Goodrich, who was last year’s Ramona Humane Society Board of Directors chairperson.
A humble group for certain, but underlying it all the compassion for animals was evident as Sheppard elaborated, “We sit here tonight partying, celebrating our volunteers, but there are animals still depending on us back at the shelter. We need to keep the focus on them, but tonight was the exception because we could not do what we accomplish, without the community support we receive in this valley.”
Nonprofit Ramona Humane Society’s motto is “Advocate. Educate. Adopt.” The shelter is fully supported through sponsorships, donations, grants, spaying clinics, fundraising, sheltering, and Animal Control contracts, adoption and other shelter related fees. The shelter is located at 690 Humane Way, San Jacinto.
The second floor of the Library, the Naawichum Pomki room, can be rented through the city’s website, under facilities (www.cityofhemet.org/Facilities). The city also has other rooms that can be rented for conferences and meetings.