On Saturday, October 29th, the Beverly Hilton hosted the 27th annual Peggy Albrecht Friendly House awards luncheon honoring Katey Sagal and Robert Shapiro. Now in its 65th year of providing shelter, support, and treatment to women recovering from substance and alcohol abuse, Friendly House is a recovery home with open doors, a loving staff, and a mission to transition women from suffering an existence of desperation and despair to living a life with meaning and fulfillment. The afternoon was a celebration of generosity, hope, and the incredible power of an organization to change and renew the lives of so many women in need.
Upon entering the lively welcome reception area, guests mingled as they moved through a luxurious silent auction featuring designer clothing and accessories, one-of-a-kind experiences, and unique collectibles. Any discerning eye would wish to covet deals on the vast display of offerings – taking up two full rooms – like Michael Kors handbags, Gucci sunglasses, Alexander McQueen neckties, Versace items, high end designer jewelry, costume jewelry by Rue LaLa, items like breakfast with Larry King, and opportunities to partake in golf outings, television tapings, museum exhibits, theatrical shows, and concerts. Autographed music memorabilia was offered too, as well as gift certificates to local restaurants, spas, and yoga studios. Guests eagerly signed their names to donate.
After the silent auction, guests entered the spectacular ballroom with an elaborately lit stage backdrop and beautiful orchid lined tables. The roasted chicken served for lunch was delicious, topped off with a generous serving of 65th birthday baked Alaska cake accompanied by a rousing sing-along rendition of “Happy Birthday.”
But it was not this lavish auction and beautiful setting that made the day memorable – it was the personal stories of women who have been saved by Peggy Albrecht and Friendly House. Radio and television host and best-selling author Pat O’Brien MC’d the ceremony, introducing women like board member Nenea Reeves, who recounted her recovery story and her mother’s recovery success story too. Grateful Heart inductee Lisa also took the stage, sharing how Friendly House lead her to rediscover life after she had forgotten how to live; her mother, Sylvia, followed, thanking Friendly House for bringing her daughter back to life. Another more recent Friendly House survivor recounted her inspiring story of addiction, incarceration, and ultimate recovery. Her daughter stood by her side, having newly regained custody, and thanked Peggy “for giving her her mommy back” in a deeply profound moment.
The moving speeches given by the families of the award recipients and the recipients themselves also contributed to the profundity of the afternoon.
Katey Sagal was awarded with the Woman of the Year Award. We all know that Katey Sagal is a Golden Globe Award winning actress most known for her role as matriarch Peg Bundy in ground-breaking series “Married with Children.” But, from her children’s and husband’s heartfelt words of gratitude, it became clear that Katey is also a mother who parents with patience and wisdom, a loving and devoted wife, and a true mentor within the Friendly House sober community.
The Humanitarian Award was presented to philanthropists Linell and Robert Shapiro. In the wake of the tragic loss of their son to an accidental drug overdose, they founded The Brent Shapiro Foundation to honor his name and to fight the epidemic of drug use among youths. The foundation has opened Brent’s Clubs throughout Los Angeles, providing safe havens for young adults, offering drug and alcohol prevention programs, and rewarding college scholarships to middle and high school students who complete the programs.
There were several moments of the ceremony that touched attendees and encouraged them to contribute generously throughout the afternoon, but it was one woman with whom I sat, whose positive energy, vibrant personality, life affirming story, and abundant gratitude to Friendly House made my experience at the awards luncheon so meaningful. For anonymity purposes, I’ll call her “Susan.” Susan had a room for two months at Friendly House many years ago, and now sober for over ten years, Susan’s life is her own again. She confided to me how Friendly House gave her a home when she was an alcoholic with no where else to go. Peggy Albrecht showed her compassion and gave her guidance when no one else could reach her. Treatment there, continued still through weekly meetings, gave her the powerful understanding that relationships that suffered as she suffered through addiction, were, in fact, reparable and ever more meaningful in sobriety. Her sponsor, showcased in one of the projector screen montages, gives her a role model to proudly emulate. Her strong bonds with fellow housemates continue to thrive to this day. And her renewed dedication to living life to the fullest, an outlook gained while living at Friendly House, is something she now imparts to her daughter who was just a small child when her mother completed the Friendly House program. Getting to know Susan, for just a short while, proved to me how important and meaningful an organization like Friendly House is to so many women.
I feel honored to have been a part of such an inspiring afternoon, where it became clear how even the seemingly tiniest of donations to a treatment center like Friendly House can have such lifelong, lasting impacts upon women from all walks of life – women seeking treatment, seeking recovery, seeking a friendly house, seeking a home.