Twenty-somethings in San Francisco are often thought of as smug and self-absorbed. But every winter since 2007, a ballroom full of them parties in San Francisco for a reason—and this year they're on track to raise tens of thousands of dollars for kids living on the streets.
The annual San Francisco Social, on November 16, 2013 at the W Hotel, benefits Larkin Street Youth Services, which offers counseling, food, housing, medical care and other help to homeless and runaway youths in the city. Besides an open bar and dance music, the night features acrobats, burlesque dancers and a silent auction (dinner at Gary Danko, wine tasting with “The Bachelor” star Ben Flajnik, weekend getaways and a BMW driving class at Sonoma’s Infineon Raceway are among the items up for grabs). More than 500 Millennials attended last year’s gala, which netted $75,000 for Larkin Street.
Behind the Social’s scenes is a young but wide-ranging board and host committee, which includes Flajnik, start-up entrepreneurs, an indie filmmaker, a San Francisco political aide, a winery owner and a winner of “The Amazing Race.” The board directors (ages 25-32) choose a local nonprofit to support every two years—long enough to make an impact, but short enough to introduce people to a variety of charitable organizations. The hope is that the Social’s followers will discover causes that they’re personally interested in and become long-term benefactors. Meanwhile, the board and committee members also roll up their sleeves and volunteer; for Larkin Street, they’ve prepared lunch boxes and collected clothing, and are scheduled to offer job-hunting help.
The San Francisco Social’s founder is 27-year-old Anderson Pugash, CEO of Crossroads Nightlife event company and an owner of the recently opened Bergerac bar-restaurant and Audio Discotech nightclub. His father, James Pugash, was a co-founder of Hearthstone, a leading institutional investor in residential real estate projects, and an active philanthropist. When James Pugash died suddenly of pancreatic cancer at age 55, his message that "giving back can start at any age" had a new-found impact on Anderson. Then 20, Anderson came up with the San Francisco Social as a means to continue his dad’s philanthropic philosophy.
In its inaugural year, the Social drew 110 people and raised $18,000 for Sonoma Jazz +, a festival founded by Pugash’s parents that supported music education. Subsequent beneficiaries of the Social were the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco and KIPP Bay Area Schools.
Pugash and the board decided to back Larkin Street because of its comprehensive programs, transparent and dedicated management and proven results. And, as he's told the Nob Hill Gazette, "if we had not been so fortunate to have the families and support systems that we have, we could be in the same shoes as any of these kids that Larkin Street helps.”