Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Oo-la-la Ga-la-la

Confessions of a non-schmoozer and new owner of a “little black dress”

by Aly Lewis

I don’t attend many “black tie optional” events. Sure, my friends occasionally get married at venues other than the beach and require their guests to wear apparel other than sun dresses and flips flops, but I must admit it’s not often. My tendency toward introversion and my general aversion to high heels often compel me to shy away from fancy-dress frolicking and gala gallivanting. But this weekend is Plant With Purpose’s 2009 Planting Hope Gala, and, somewhat to my astonishment, I couldn’t be more excited to gear up for some good ole mingling and the chance to test drive my newly (thrift store) purchased little black dress. And here’s why:

Top 10 Reasons the Gala Will Knock My (and your) Socks Off*

1. Hershey Kisses as Hors d'oeuvres

Who doesn’t love tasty pre-dinner chocolate treats?

2. Business Casuals Dressed to the Nines

Seeing my coworkers primped and preened: priceless.

3. Family Reunion

For me personally the gala will serve as an actual family reunion. My parents are coming in from Northern California for the event and my brother and his girlfriend will be attending as well. What’s more, the gala serves to reunite old friends, coworkers, and classmates. And beyond family lines, the gala unites us all as one Plant With Purpose family, joining together to transform the lives of the rural poor.

4. Goody bags

They were the best part of childhood birthday parties and, if we’re honest with ourselves, they’re still pretty great. This year we even have goody-bag-size bags of coffee from our friends at Malindi Coffee. Can you say cute caffeine?!

5. Killer Deals at the Silent Auction

Trust me, there are some sweet deals and packages in the silent auction this year. We’ve had companies from all over donate lots of unique, elegant, and just darn fun items. Here’s a little sneak peak: San Diego Sightseer and Lego My Eggo includes tickets to an array of local San Diego museums as well as to Legoland. Inline Fun with In ‘N Out Yum features a Skateworld party and In ‘N Out gift certificates. Little Kung Fu Guru offers authentic Kung Fu training for kids. And we have loads more of exciting packages, exclusive getaways, and entertaining ways for you to spend your days. (And if you’re wondering who wrote the clever package names, let’s just say I don’t like to toot my own horn, but I did enjoy a week of snickering at my desk while scheming up rhymes and alliterations)

6. Mix and Mingle

I admit I’m not usually one to schmooze, but even I find it fun to meet and talk to people who care about the same things I do. And perhaps I’m biased, but Plant With Purpose supporters are some of the coolest, most interesting people I’ve ever met. I dare you to introduce yourself to at least 10 people you don’t know. Make that a Double Dog Dare.

7. 25th Anniversary

This year marks Plant With Purpose’s 25th year of working to reverse poverty and deforestation around the world. That's right, Plant With Purpose was working at the intersection of poverty and deforestation way before creation care was cool. In honor of this milestone, Cesar Lopez, one of the founders of Plant With Purpose, will travel from the Dominican Republic to give a special presentation. Woohoo Plant With Purpose!

8. The Bidding Frenzy

I never cease to be amazed by the supersonic speed with which auctioneers “call” a live auction. Don’t let all the “Um diddle diddle um diddle ays” distract you because you’re going to want to bid on these awesome packages from an Adventures in Fatherhood father/daughter or father/son wilderness excursion to a magnificent Diamond Delight ring (to be modeled by my wonderful roommate) to an All Season High Sierra mountain retreat. Get your paddles ready!

9. The Giving Frenzy

Even more scintillating than the live auction is the Fund A Need “auction” of sorts. Instead of outbidding fellow tablemates, this is a chance for guests to pledge their support to Plant With Purpose’s life-changing programs. Every year I’m blown away by how much people give. I find myself saying to my neighbor (usually another broke college student), “Did they seriously just raise their paddle to give $20,000?” It’s inspiring and amazing and really really really cool to watch the excitement as people give joyously and generously. So inspiring, in fact, that I made my friend hide my paddle the first year I volunteered at the gala for fear that I would commit myself to give thousands of dollars that I didn’t possess. Building a cistern in Tanzania or paying for a semester of college? Seriously, it’s a tough choice.

10. The [Aly Lewis] Cry Fest

I will cry. And yes, this is a good thing. Every time I hear anyone speak on our life-changing programs or talk about the stories of transformation and restoration that Plant With Purpose is helping to bring about, I am moved to tears. I wish I was the kind of person who could cry on demand, but trust me, I can’t. So if you see my eyes glisten while our Executive Director, Scott, talks about Plant With Purpose’s accomplishments over the last 25 years, know that I’m legitimately moved. Witty banter and sarcastic comments aside, I am deeply grateful to be a part of this ministry, to connect with and empower rural farmers around the globe, and to join with others in taking baby steps of selflessness and compassion that spur us toward becoming more loving, more compassionate, and more fully engaged in our world. I think that’s something worth celebrating.

Don’t miss out on this amazing evening! To r.s.v.p. online, please visit or contact Kate McElhinney at (858) 274-3728 or

*Don’t worry, I will not actually be wearing socks with my little black dress. My socks will only figuratively be knocked off.

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