Mayor Eric Garcetti made a surprise appearance at the Big Sunday annual gala at Candela two weeks ago. His honor did the honors of presenting awards of recognition to longtime Big Sunday staff member Berenice Katcher, Hancock Park philanthropist Jon Vein and corporate sponsor NBC Universal.
We caught up with Big Sunday Founder and Executive Director David Levinson last week, and he told the Buzz, “our gala is not like other galas. We are all about community building and inclusivity, and galas by their nature are not that. So we straddle line between fancy fundraising and hamisha (the yiddish word for homey and cozy), but I think we pull it off.”
“We go for the fun vibe,” said Levinson. “Our menu was chicken and waffles with maple syrup on the side, and we had a sing along!”
Also, Levinson said, he invites a lot of people who couldn’t attend otherwise, giving away tickets from underwriters and others so that everyone who wants to come can attend.
“I really believe that we can all help,” said Levinson. “We are a world of haves and have more. We all have something and we can all help each other. We can all give and receive. At Big Sunday, we blur the line between homeless and CEOs. It’s all about dignity and understanding.”
Levinson thinks that so many of the problems we have in society these days are the result of “people get worried about the “other.” It’s because they don’t know them. When you work together you see them as people not just a demographic.”
This year was the 20th anniversary of Big Sunday. The organization operates with nine full-time staff members and an annual budget of $1.5 million. The staff run weekly and monthly events because people really want to help all the time, explained Levinson. Big Sunday started as a one day event of volunteerism. Recently Levinson said they are earning revenue from setting up days of service for organizations in the city and even outside LA.
“Our first year, we had 150 people serving Thanksgiving dinner,” said Levinson. “Last year, we had over 1,700 people. I firmly believe that you are never too young, too old. people want to help, they just need to now how.”
“David collects the community in such an authentic way,” said Heidi Levitt, a Brookside resident who attended with her husband Charlie Hess.
Other locals included Ellie Herman, Levinson’s wife, Jon Vein and Ellen Goldsmith-Vein, Mike and Aliza Lesser, Alan Bernstein, Corie Brown and Chris Fager, Randye Hoder and Rick Wartzman, Andy Goodman and Carolyn Ramsay, Charlie Hess and Heidi Levitt, Jane Gilman, Karen and Mike Gilman, Ina Coleman, Vince Klaseus and Todd Gertschen, Andrea Troyer, Daniel Weiss and Abby Wolf-Weiss, Doreen Braverman and Stuart Rudnick, Adam and Ellen Greenfield, Chris Bubser, Mark and Mimi Drop, Leon Kenyon and Cindy Burlingham, Brian Curran and Kevin McLellan, Howie and Susie Mandel, Lisa Hofheimer, Paramount staff members including Jennifer Lynch, and Mayor Eric Garcetti.
Below are some photos Levinson shared with the Buzz.