More than 100 guests showed up recently as Second Congregational Church in Greenwich held its 10th annual St. Valentine's Gala. The affair, which featured rich musical and culinary menus and heartfelt giving, raised more than $90,000 for Heart Care International.
Highlights of the evening included a rousing revue by the church's Just for Men Chorus. With "Food, Glorious Food!" as the theme, the 14-voice chorus performed songs including "Days of Wine and Roses," "Jambalaya" and "I Can Cook, Too." The group took the stage in starched chefs' hats and jackets for the finale.
Another highlight was a delicious meal cooked and served by the Men's Fellowship.
Proceeds from the event will go to Heart Care International, a Greenwich-based nonprofit organization founded by church member Dr. Robert Michler of Riverside with church sponsorship in 1994 and supported by many other church members. The organization, which offers diagnostic care and surgery for children and young adults with life-threatening heart conditions in developing countries, has performed more than 750 heart surgeries and treated more than 1,200 children in Guatemala, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador and Peru. Plans are under way for expansion into Haiti and Mexico.
"Heart Care International is life-changing for the patients and families it serves around the world, and also for the many people in Greenwich and the region who have been a part of its work," said the Rev. Maxwell Grant, Senior Minister of Second Congregational Church. "Everyone who has accompanied the Heart Care team on a mission says, `You have to go, even if it's just for a day, because it will change your life.' The look in their eyes shows how deeply they have been transformed."
He added: "We are so proud that Second Congregational Church has been an active supporter from the very beginning. It's hard to imagine service work that could be holier or more noble. Heart Care is proof that the passion and commitment of a small group can change the world. That's the best kind of sermon there is."
Michler, an internationally-recognized cardiothoracic surgeon, is Surgeon-in-Chief at Montefiore Medical Center and Albert Einstein College of Medicine, as well as Chairman of Surgery and Chairman of Cardiovascular and Thoracic Surgery.
Many other local residents, including church members, donate their time, talents and financial resources to benefit Heart Care International. Taking part in the festivities for the 10th anniversary was the Rev. Ron Allison, who traveled to the event from his current home in Washington State and was instrumental in founding Heart Care International as Senior Minister of Second Congregational Church.
"Ron Allison was a great inspiration to me and my team from the outset. He provided me with the confidence to persevere against the challenges of insufficient supplies, issues with customs in the host countries and lack of funds to purchase equipment," Michler said.
Several people contributed to the gala's success. For the 10th consecutive year, Chris Combe of Greenwich, who serves on the Heart Care International Board of Directors, organized and participated in the entertainment as event chair. Others playing major roles included Alexander Constantine, director of music at the church; and Matt Singleton of Greenwich, who led the team that prepared the meal. Joining Singleton as chefs were Men's Fellowship members Kunduck Moon of Greenwich and Chris Starr of Old Greenwich, along with Heart Care International team member Roger Swayze of Ossining, N.Y.
To learn more about Second Congregational Church, visit www.2cc.org.
For more information on Heart Care International, visit www.heartcareintl.org.