Women Find a Home – and Find Themselves – at Friendly House

It was an honor to attend The Peggy Albrecht Friendly House 28th Annual Awards Luncheon for my second year in a row…  It was inspiring and refreshing to spend the afternoon in the presence of sober women with such strength and courage, of celebrities with such generosity, and of an organization filled with such empowering leaders.

PAFH Executive Director Monica Phillips, honorees Harold Owens, Eden Sassoon and Joe Manganiello. (Photo credit: Vince Bucci)

On October 28, 2017, six hundred guests were treated to a fantastic presentation in The Beverly Hilton Hotel International Ballroom, hosted by comedienne, Grammy and Emmy nominee, and human rights activist Margaret Cho.  Her lighthearted nature kept spirits high and helped raise funds for this important cause throughout the afternoon.  Amidst her humor, Cho said, profoundly, “Together, we can build bridges of communication and provide hope and services to those who need it most.”

And so began the moving ceremony, packed with A-listers and Friendly House alumni alike, all of whom have combated struggles with alcoholism…

Actor/comedian Chris Hardwick presented Joe Manganiello with the Man of the Year Award.  As an esteemed actor, director, producer, author, and Emmy winning narrator, Manganiello is best known for starring in films like Magic Mike, Sabotage, What to Expect When You’re Expecting, Spider-Man, and Pee Wee’s Big Holiday and for his television work in True Blood, Mom, and How I Met Your Mother.  Yet Manganiello is lesser known for his commitment to sobriety and healthy living, as well as his philanthropic involvement as a Board Member of the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh Foundation and supporter of Stand Up 2 Cancer and the Entertainment Industry Foundation.  He and Hardwick both revealed the importance of female support in their lives, and they shared a wish that they could have had a place like Friendly House to ease their treatment and recovery processes.

Man of the Year Awardee Joe Manganiello and his wife Sofia Vergara. (Photo credit: Vince Bucci)

Actor, comedian, and author Richard Lewis was the next presenter, introducing esteemed addiction recovery specialist Harold Owens to receive the Excellence in Service Award.  As a leader of MusiCares, the charity wing of NARAS (National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences), Owens leads the music industry’s chief support resource for addiction recovery among professional musicians.  His dedication to this cause within the physician community has also earned Owen Official Commendations from Mayors James Hahn and Antonio Villaraigosa for Outstanding Service in the Field of Addiction Recovery.  He is a Board Member of Miriam’s House, The Promises Foundation, and Rwanda Rocks, and a true beacon of hope for struggling addicts across Los Angeles.

Actress Dru Mouser presented Eden Sassoon with the Woman of the Year Award.  Many know Sassoon either for founding her high profile Los Angeles salon, EDEN by Eden Sassoon, and her two booming pilates studios, EDEN by Eden Sassoon Pilates, or for appearing on Season 7 of Real Housewives of Beverly Hills.  But little do most people know that the entrepreneurial daughter of beauty mogul and philanthropist Vidal Sassoon is also a philanthropist in her own right.  She founded Beauty Gives Back, a nonprofit organization centered on uniting the beauty community to combat the global water crisis, and she also is building a team of high-profile hairdressers to raise funds for The Thirst Project.

PAFH Board Member Peter White and his wife Elizabeth White. Peter was presented with the inaugural Peggy Albrecht Friendly House Award. (Photo credit: Vince Bucci)

And finally, Kat Von D was the recipient of the Shining Star Award, although she was unable to attend due to illness.  In addition to starring in LA Ink on TLC, a show featuring her renown High Voltage Tattoo shop in West Hollywood, Von D has penned three books that have topped The New York Times Best Seller List, and she created Kat Von D Beauty, a 100% cruelty-free vegan beauty line sold exclusively at Sephora.  In addition to her entrepreneurial endeavors, Von D volunteers at and generously supports the California Wildlife Center, and she is a sponsor and volunteer for Project Chimps Animal Sanctuary, Mercy for Animals, Farm Sanctuary, and Best Friends Animal Society.  She has donated to these causes combined proceeds of over $300,000 from Kat Von D cosmetics.

For me, the highlights of the afternoon were the individual stories delivered by Friendly House residents and alumni, aptly called “The Grateful Hearts.”  This year’s Grateful Hearts were two mother/daughter pairs and a few other women with truly touching before and after scenarios.  In chilling descriptions, each recalled the darkest depths of their drug addictions and battles with alcoholism, marked by hopelessness, despair, and loss of self.  But when they then described the care and treatment that Friendly House provided them, their worlds became filled with hope, dignity, kindness, and self worth.

Luncheon Co-Chairs Peggy Albrecht and Sydney Holland (Photo credit: Vince Bucci)

All of these women, and current Program Director Amy Castro herself, unanimously credited their recovery to the “mother” of Friendly House, in particular – Peggy Albrecht – who recently celebrated her 35th year of service to the home.  The whole room gave her a loving standing ovation for her dedication and commitment to Friendly House and its residents.  It was a moving moment to hear how Albrecht’s story of personal struggle and survival nearly four decades ago echoed the stories of women who find a home – and find themselves – at Friendly House today.





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