RANCHO SANTA FE — The Country Friends announced that Del Mar residents Deborah and Les Cross were named honorees for the 2021 Art of Fashion taking place on Sept. 16 at the historic Inn at Rancho Santa Fe.
The couple’s commitment and significant contributions have supported The Country Friends, a Rancho Santa Fe-based nonprofit, for nearly 15 years.
“When I became involved with The Country Friends, I really did not understand the history of the organization or the scope of the incredible work they do for our community,” Deborah Cross said.
In 2007, Cross joined the Art of Fashion Committee. Following this, she joined The Country Friends board of directors in 2008, and since that time, served two consecutive terms as board president from 2014 to 2018. Currently, Cross serves as the first Vice President and is also one of the co-chairs for the Art of Fashion.
Cross’ husband, Les, was also drawn to The Country Friends, and the couple joined the nonprofit’s finance committee and championed the Giving Hearts Gala in 2018 to help build a more robust capital campaign for the nonprofit.
“It is quite humbling and exciting at the same time to be honored this way at the 2021 Art of Fashion,” Cross said. “Les and I really enjoy what we are able to do for the community and didn’t expect such an honor as this. That said, we will continue to support The Country Friends and many other San Diego charities because it makes us feel satisfied to be so involved in the San Diego community.”
According to 2019 Art of Fashion Honorary Chair and The Country Friends board member Andrea Naversen, she’s had the pleasure to know Deborah and Les for 12 of those years.
“We affectionately call them ‘Mr. and Mrs. Country Friends,’ because of their extraordinary 15-year commitment to the organization in both time and financial support,” Naversen said. “They have inspired me with their kindness, optimism, and passion for life. They love to travel and are quite the adventurers, having seen much of the world (pre-pandemic).”
Naversen added how delighted she was when she heard the Cross couple was selected as Honorary Chairs for the 2021 Art of Fashion.
“I can’t think of anyone more deserving than this committed, compassionate couple who are being honored for their dedication to The Country Friends,” Naversen said. “Deb’s impact with The Country Friends has been immeasurable, as past president, and in her many roles not just with The Art of Fashion, but co-chairing the Giving Hearts Gala with her husband. She and Les have helped raise the profile of The Country Friends in the community and increase funding to the organization’s selected charities.”
The Art of Fashion is a partnership between The Country Friends and South Coast Plaza. Some of the chosen designers gracing the runway wearing fall-winter designs at the Art of Fashion 2021 will include Versace, Camilla, Max Mara, and Saks Fifth Avenue.
The event is considered one of the nonprofit’s largest fundraisers of the year, so it can continue to support human care agencies based in San Diego County. Established in 1954, The Country Friends has gifted close to $14 million.
Naversen described how when the couple works on a project, they are competent, thorough, and fun to be around.
“We laugh a lot which makes hard work easier,” Naversen said.
President of The Country Friends, Suzanne Newman, echoed the same as Naversen when describing the couple.
“Deb and Les are dedicated to giving back to their community. They want the focus on the organizations they support rather than on themselves,” Newman said. “They are inspiring in their partnership and in their belief that giving back is their responsibility. When they are involved and offer support, they are fully committed — their generosity knows no bounds.”
Newman went on to say that the duo’s business acumen brought so much to the organization through the years. Be it an event or a finance meeting, they provide insight and support based upon experience and knowledge.
When Cross served as The Country Friends president, Newman said that her ability to listen and distill the information provided the nonprofit with many opportunities to better the organization and those they serve.
“Deb’s quiet presence belies her impact on the organization. I could not do what I do without her,” Newman said.
For more information on the Art of Fashion including tickets and other opportunities, please visit TheCountryFriends.org or call 858-756-1192.