Third annual gala benefits family center and auction winners

Charles Curlett paid $2,000 Saturday night for a Cartier watch worth $5,600.

"And for a good cause," said the attorney from Oakenshawe.

But Curlett won't have the unisex watch all to himself.

"We're going to share it," said his wife, Christina.

Curlett was among more than 200 people who packed Gutierrez Studios in Woodberry for the third annual "Hats Off to Hampden Family Center," a gala fundraiser featuring silent and live auctions and live music. The Hampden Family Center provides everything from after-school enrichment and tutoring for area schoolchildren to lunches for senior citizens and assistance to families in applying for food stamps and other social services.

In addition to the watch, live auction items included tickets to Beyonce and Sting, 14 Baltimore Orioles box seats, and dinner for 10 prepared by The Food Market chef Chad Gauss at the winner's house and with wines paired for the meal by David Wells, owner of The Wine Source.

A bidding war for the dinner, between attorney Emmett McGee, of Roland Park, and Alice Ann Finnerty, owner of The Turnover Shop in Hampden, seesawed back and forth until Gauss agreed to do two dinners and both McGee and Finnerty were declared co-winners. That alone raised $6,000.

Gauss is a member off the family center's board of trustees and was co-chair of the Hats Off committee with Amy Dibos.

Dibos, of Hampton, won the Orioles box seats and said she would take her friends.

"I have a lot of new friends," she said.

A silent auction had everything from an iPhone and a weekend stay in a Palm Beach resort to jewelry, cookware, a football signed by Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco and a box set of John Waters movies.

Hats were the order of the night — bowler hats, peacock hats, flag hats and hats with ears; fascinators, wide-brimmed straw hats, bonnets and cowboy hats.

Most people got into the act, including members of the John LT Band and members of the Access Art/Youthlight Photography Project, a program at the Hampden Family Center that teaches youths and teens to use the camera as a means of artistic expression. A group of students in the program took photos of people at the gala for free, against a fanciful background of fish.

Photographer Daniel Griffin, a junior at Baltimore Polytechnic Institute said he had no hat for the gala, so a friend lent him hers — a pink straw hat.

Marcus Ross, a Youthlight and family center instructor donned a pullover hat with ears.

"Weirdness makes things more fun," said Griffin, 17, of Forest Park.

Rosemary Hoover had her photo taken for posterity. She is leaving Baltimore after 24 years and moving to the oil boom town of Williston, North Dakota, population 11,000, where her husband, Dean Hoover, is opening an office of Morris & Ritchie Associates, Inc., an architectural, engineering and planning company.

"There's a lot of wealth there," said Rosemary Hoover, wearing a white wide-brimmed hat. There is also a serious lack of housing there, she said, noting that the house she and her husband purchased was one of only 33 on the market at the time.

"I hope so," she said when asked if she thinks she will like living there. "I really have enjoyed Baltimore."

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