Photo by Jason Steinberg © 2008

Sentinel Editor & Publisher
Copyright © 2008

Raphael House, the City’s privately funded residence for mothers and children in distress, opened a new constellation of benefactors last week as patrons filled the Grand Ballroom of the swank Four Seasons Hotel for the Second Annual Raphael House Fundraising Gala.

Established in 1971, the facility was the first shelter in San Francisco for families experiencing homelessness.

Since that time, Raphael House has sheltered more than 17,000 individuals with the help of 12,000 friends who have invested financial and volunteer support.

Raphael House relies solely on private resources to meet its annual budget. Support is received from individuals, foundations, corporations, businesses, civic groups and churches that are committed to promoting stability for at-risk families.

It has more agility to more quickly individualize support for clients than do facilities accepting governmental fundeing.

Raphael House expanded its Board of Directors in April, in good part newly driven by local dynamos Kate Smith, Sophie Azouaou and Claudia Ross, who pledged a major fundraiser a scant six months ago and delivered on the pledge.

Gala Co-Chair Kate Smith

Kate Smith, right, with Diana Britt
Photo by Heather Wiley for Drew Altizer © 2008

Claudia Ross
Photo by Heather Wiley for Drew Altizer © 2008

Claudia Ross, right, and Sophie Azouaou
Photo by Heather Wiley for Drew Altizer © 2008

Francis Rigney, Past Executive Director of Raphael house; with Raphael House
Executive Director Father David Lowell, and Raphael House Board Member and
Press Committee Chair Sophie Azouaou wearing 34-carats Diamond and Rose
Cut diamond Chandelier Earrings from Jewelry by Rosalina and14.38-Carat
Kunzite, Cognac Diamond and Diamond Princess Cut Ring

Photo by Jason Steinberg © 2008

Joy Venturini Bianche and Jean-Noel Fourmeaux du Sartel
Photo by Jason Steinberg © 2008

Sophie Azouaou, Seán Martinefield, Bella Farrow and Mark Calvano
Photo by Jason Steinberg © 2008

Ross and Azouaou work in tandem on many society events.

Ross fell in love with Raphael House many years ago and Azouaou pulled the facility to her breast irresisitibly as primary devotion.

So much so that philanthropist Azouaou donated her interrior design skills and colleague Ross brought her veteran marketing savvy to bear.

Raphael House Playroom Rebirth
Photo by Noble Vision

Photo by Noble Vision

Three weeks ago, the Raphael House Board of Directors appointed new members, including Ross taking the reigns as Chair and Azouaou serving as Chair of the Board Press Committee.

Another woman of influence, NBC’s Jessica Aguirre, took Raphael House to heart after her introduction by Azouaou, and Aguirre brought its good works to the home screen several times.

Sophie Azouaou, left,
and Gala Emcee Jessica Aguirre

Photo by Jason Steinberg © 2008

Last Thursday night, Aquirre rose to emcee the gala.

Gala Emcee, NBC’s Jessica Aguirre, keeps the show rolling with her skills of being
an on-air personality for the Bay Area.

Photo by Jason Steinberg © 2008

“My ties to Raphael House run deep and they are strong because I believe so much in what they are doing,” Aguirre told the crowd.

“I’ve been doing stores on them for the last few years so it really is from the heart that I am here to be with you this evening — and we have a fabulous evening planned for you!

“I want to start things off with a very important quote.

“It was said by the woman who truly understood homelessness and poverty, perhaps more than anyone who has ever graced this earth, and that is Mother Theresa.

“Mother Theresa said, ‘We think sometimes that poverty is only being hungry, naked, and homeless.’

” ‘But poverty is being unwanted, unloved, and uncared for — that is the greatest poverty.’

“And that’s exactly what Raphael House understands.

“That it’s not just about being homeless. It’s about giving people dignity. It’s about giving them love. About showing them the path and giving them back their life, their souls.

“And that’s what Raphael House does.

“It is not a shelter because it doesn’t really shelter people, it nurtures them.

“Raphael House’s mission officialy is to help at-risk children and their parents achieve stable housing and financial independence.

Claudia Ross speaks with Jean-Noel Fourmeaux du Sartel
Photo by Jason Steinberg © 2008

“And it does it by strengthening the bonds of those families and teaching them how to be a parent. How to be a mother. How to be a leader of that household.

“Their mission is very, very clear.

“They take families in crisis and they move them into a community, and in some cases that community lasts a lifetime.”

“From the moment the family walks in, and until the day that they leave, they know that they’re always welcome there, and that long after they are in their own homes Raphael House in always a home to them.

“Raphael House has had this vision for some forty years.

“A vision about how to change the situation of homelessness and it is a vision that we’re fortunate enough now to have a mayor who has that same vision, who sees the problem and sees that path to solution.”

Claudia Ross and her father Jorge Castillo
Photo by Jason Steinberg © 2008

San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom concurred through video presentation.


David Miree represented San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom at the gala
Photo by Heather Wiley for Drew Altizer © 2008

“The homelessness issue is so much broader than the images that most of us see that is associated with a large shopping cart along with all sorts of personal belongings,” reflected the mayor.

“That’s just one aspect of homelessness. That’s the most visible aspect. That’s just the face of chronic homelessness.

“What people don’t really realize is the face of a homeless individual is an eight-year-old girl or boy.

“The old approach to homelessness that you can solve it somehow by putting people in shelters, that a ‘cot and a hot’ was a way of providing a solution.

“Increasingly now, people are recogning that you’ve got to move away from a shelter system to a housing-first model, that housing with supportive services solves homelessness.

“In the interim, obviously places like Raphael House that have been at this for thirty-some years are stopgap between someone being out on the streets and having the dignity of having a place that they can call home.

“It’s credible. It’s just warm, inviting.

“There’s an intangible sense of there being spirit and pride by the people who are working there in their life’s mission and purpose.

“I don’t think that — I know that.

“They’ve solved the problem for over 17,000 people.”

Festivities included a silent auction and drawing for a trip to Europe courtesy of Lufthansa.

Danielle and husband Jon Mewes enjoy their second Raphael House
Annual Benefit Gala

Photo by Jason Steinberg © 2008

Ali Grosslight and Chet Kowski browse the silent auction offerings, which ranged
from private chef party’s to jewerlry

Photo by Jason Steinberg © 2008

Raphael’s Gala fundraiser rallies San Franciscans in raising funds to assist those
wishing to get off the streets

Photo by Jason Steinberg © 2008

Photo by Jason Steinberg © 2008

Joy Bianchi and Jorge Castillo comment on the auction for various chefs and food
Photo by Jason Steinberg © 2008

A live auction of fineries kept the house moving.

Trent August’s rapid fire approach assist the Raphael’s Gala fundraiser to assist
those wishing to get off the street

Photo by Jason Steinberg © 2008

Kimberly Givsan and Harry Denton
Photo by Jason Steinberg © 2008

Photo by Heather Wiley for Drew Altizer © 2008

Clara Shayevich takes a playful pose with
top hat and matching silver appointed
walking stick

Photo by Jason Steinberg © 2008

David Costello and Clara Shayevich
Photo by Heather Wiley for Drew Altizer © 2008

Kimberly Givsan, Ludmila Eggleton, and Mark Calvano
Photo by Jason Steinberg © 2008

Photo by Heather Wiley for Drew Altizer © 2008

Francis Rigney, Past Chairperson of Raphael House, chats with Robert Sztam
Photo by Jason Steinberg © 2008

Francis Rigney and Sophie Azouaou
Photo by Jason Steinberg © 2008

Joel Goodrich, left, with Joe Alioto Veronese
Photo by Heather Wiley for Drew Altizer © 2008

Joe Alioto Veronese, left, and Pat Murphy
Photo by Jason Steinberg © 2008

Jose Cisneros, Sophie Azouaou and Pat Murphy
Photo by Jason Steinberg © 2008

Napata and the Kisses moved action to the dance floor.

Photo by Jason Steinberg © 2008

Inessa Obernhuber and Stanislav Mikhailou rock-it on the dance floor
Photo by Jason Steinberg © 2008

Photo by Jason Steinberg © 2008

After the various fundraising auctions a
band gets the crowd up on their feet to
dance the night away

Photo by Jason Steinberg © 2008

Photo by Jason Steinberg © 2008

Theresa Villa, proprietor of Foot Candy in Walnut Creek donated for auction a high
end Jimmy Choo bag which scored heavy bidding from the crowd

Photo by Jason Steinberg © 2008

To donate online to Raphael House, click here.

Jason Steinberg
San Francisco Photojournalist
Jason Steinberg is a San Francisco based photographer whose photojournalistic style (San Francisco Sate University- B.A. Journalism-photo emphasis) documents the Bay Area scene while capturing those fleeting moments of grand emotion that last. Jason has a sense of ease that transforms his clients’ apprehensions and anxieties about having their image made. Additionally, his personality enables him to move amongst the crowd, to capture hidden moments. Visit Bay Area events at Steinberg Imagery’s Galleries. For a complete selection of photos, click here. Email the photographer at:

Sentinel Editor & Publisher
In his youth, Pat Murphy worked as a General Assignment reporter for the Richmond Independent, the Berkeley Daily Gazette, and the San Francisco Chronicle. He served as Managing Editor of the St. Albans (Vermont) Daily Messenger at age 21. Murphy also launched ValPak couponing in San Francisco, as the company’s first San Francisco franchise owner. He walked the bricks, developing ad strategy for a broad range of restaurants and merchants. Pat knows what works and what doesn’t work. His writing skill has been employed by marketing agencies, including Don Solem & Associates. He has covered San Francisco governance for the past eleven years. Pat scribes an offbeat opinion column of the human family. Email Pat Murphy at






Comments are closed.