One hundred smartly dressed women arrived at the Phipps Mansion of Old Westbury Gardens recently for a day in Tuscany to benefit the Children in Bloom program.
Chairwoman Joan Hope MacNaughton said the purpose of the luncheon was to raise money for the children’s educational programs.
“We have had this luncheon for six years and every year it gets bigger and better and helps fund necessary programs for the children all throughout every educational scope,” she said. “Old Westbury Gardens does environmental programs, educational and cultural programs for children from toddlers to teenagers. Today we have Lorraine Bracco, actress and author known for her role on The Sopranos, and Nancy Rauch Douzinas who has a family foundation which gives to all different charities to children and to areas of Long Island.”
Admiring the interior of the beautiful gold coast mansion was Bracco, who shared her childhood experiences with Anton Media Group publisher Angela Susan Anton. Bracco grew up in Hicksville and had a special connection to Old Westbury Gardens. The mansion was built as a wedding present to the owner’s British bride as a promise that if she would come to America and marry him, he would give her a taste of England on Long Island.
“My mother was British and a war bride. My dad met my mom at a USO dance,” said Bracco. “They were always coming to Old Westbury Gardens and I spent a part of my childhood running through these gardens. My parents loved Old Westbury Gardens, so when I was asked to come I jumped at the chance. I have not been here in over 40 years. I came in memory of them. When I walk here, I feel like I am walking in their footsteps. They died a few years ago, nine days apart, so I feel like I am here with them. I love nature and I think it is important to keep this alive for children, to keep it going and to enjoy.”
Anton, who was an event committee member, concurred with Bracco’s sentiments.
“I think this luncheon is very special because it helps the children,” said Anton. “I have been involved with this program since the beginning six years ago. These programs get children involved and show them the wonder and beauty of the gardens here at Old Westbury Gardens and the importance of nature.”
President of Americana Manhasset, Deirdre Costa Major, gave her thoughts on the importance of the luncheon.
“This is a beautiful event and Carol Large [Old Westbury Gardens chairman of the board] has done a great job in supporting Old Westbury Gardens. This is an oasis for us to come to and enjoy the flowers, the fresh air, the open spaces and just to connect to nature and to ourselves. It is a wonderful venue.”
Americana Manhasset donated one of the four grand prizes, which was a $1,000 gift certificate to the stores.
Guests filed into the grand red ballroom, which was decked out in decidedly Tuscan atmosphere with tables filled with centerpieces of grapes, apples and hydrangeas as a nod to the annual harvest. Poet Laureate Victoria Crosby of Glen Cove shared her stories of visiting the palaces in London and why she attends the event.
“As a former early childhood teacher, this particular event is important to me because it helps to educate children on environmental issues,” she said. “Also as a person born and raised in England, the house and gardens make me feel as though I am back there in an English country home.”
As guests dined on caramelized pear salad and Tuscan baked chicken, Large discussed the importance of the educational programs for the community.
“The Garden’s Westbury School District partnership hosted 1,414 individual students with 2,344 total visits in 2014-15,” she said. “According to the teacher evaluations, 81 percent of participating children who attended the Old Westbury Garden’s outdoor educational programming have shown improved science grades.”
Large thanked the guests for their participation and bidding on the raffle items, which were donated and brought in additional funds.
“By participating, you are helping cultivate an appreciation of nature in children and families as we strive to develop a lasting legacy of environmental consciousness and preservation,” she said.
For future events at Old Westbury Gardens, which is located at 71 Old Westbury Rd., go to www.oldwestburygardens.org or call 516-333-0048.