The Country Friends, a 68-year-old nonprofit, has announced the co-chairs of Art of Fashion, its annual runway show and luncheon set for September 15 at the historic Inn at Rancho Santa Fe. South Coast Plaza is event partner for the 18th straight year, featuring fashion from its unparalleled collection of luxury retailers.
Co-chairs Sandy Nolan, Keilene Hayward, and Melissa Wilkins were chosen for their accomplishments and commitment to The Country Friends. Each year, TCF also selects honorary chairs, recognized for their dedication to the organization. This year, TCF is collectively honoring all of the organization’s volunteers, including those at The Country Friends Consignment Shop on El Tordo in Rancho Santa Fe, in recognition of their years of selfless service. Proceeds from the shop benefit San Diego County nonprofits with special emphasis on those providing services to women, children, the elderly, the disabled, and military families.
Additional money is raised through the Art of Fashion, TCF’s largest event, which draws hundreds of guests to The Inn’s lawns for a champagne reception, boutique shopping, luncheon, and professional runway show featuring selections from the fall-winter collections of South Coast Plaza’s exclusive designers and retailers. “We look forward to this year’s runway show, our traditional homage to fashion and philanthropy,” says Suzanne Newman, president of The Country Friends. “Fall’s premier style event benefits San Diego County charities whose needs grew even greater during the pandemic.”
The Country Friends provided $100,000 in emergency funding last year to 10 nonprofits. Although the pandemic forced cancellation of the 2020 Art of Fashion, TCF was able to raise money through a virtual silent auction and consignment shop sales. This month, The Country Friends will distribute an additional $200,000 to charities that have been carefully vetted by the organization’s board of directors through site visits, interviews, and questionnaires.
Sandy Nolan is a Southern California native who attended Long Beach State University, earning a degree in finance with a minor in economics. She began her career at Merrill Lynch as an account executive before starting her family and raising four sons. In addition to assisting her husband with the family business, Nolan also earned a real estate broker’s license specializing in income properties. Nolan’s involvement with community service began with the Prescription Drug Task Force, working with the Drug Enforcement Administration in San Diego County as an advocate for parents and families coping with drug addiction. Along with educating the public about the dangers of drug addiction, she has also advocated for the safe and proper disposal of prescription drugs. Nolan has volunteered for many projects that benefit the most vulnerable members of the San Diego community. In 2019, she was honored in Washington, D.C. with the Attorney General’s Award for Outstanding Contributions to Community Partnerships for Public Safety. Nolan continues to be active in San Diego-based community projects.
Keilene Hayward has dedicated most of her life to caring for her children and family. She is married to husband, Michael, and is the mother of three and grandmother of four. Hayward has spent the past decade as a personal chef and caretaker for families throughout San Diego. She is an avid cook with a passion for teaching clients how to incorporate healthy alternatives into their meals and lifestyles. For the last three years, Hayward has volunteered twice a week at The Country Friends Consignment Shop, where she is a valuable member of the team and enjoys service to others. She also enjoys spending time in nature with her husband and a puppy named Oliver. Her hobbies include baking, yoga, and playing with her grandchildren.
Melissa Wilkins grew up in a large family with five siblings, graduating from Pasadena City College with an associate arts degree. She has had a 20-year-career in the fine jewelry industry and has two beautiful daughters, Caitlin and Amanda. Wilkins’ philanthropy was influenced by Amanda, who suffered a traumatic brain injury in a boating accident when she was 13, resulting in years of rehabilitation. Amanda is now a happy and healthy young woman, but her experience led Wilkins to become a regular blood donor to the San Diego Blood Bank. She also volunteers with The San Diego Brain Injury Foundation, FACE Foundation, and the Wounded Warriors Project.
Now retired, Wilkins has plenty of time to spend with her daughters, her three grandsons, family, and friends. Her passions include painting, reading, designing jewelry, cooking, and entertaining. She enjoys being out in nature, traveling the world, and driving fast cars. She lives in Rancho Santa Fe with Michael, her longtime partner. thecountryfriends.org