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Mission City Community Fund “Poker and Pearls” Charity Dinner

Mission City Community Fund

“Winning never feels as good as losing feels bad,” said Santa Clara Fire Chief Bill Kelly, placing a casino chip on the blackjack table. “I prefer winning.”

Kelly and his wife, Barbara, were out on the town November 4, attending the Mission City Community Fund’s “Poker and Pearls” Casino Night, held at California’s Great America Pavilion, 4701 Great America Parkway, Santa Clara.

The casino night–perhaps the biggest annual charity dinner party in Santa Clara–was the 30th annual dinner sponsored by the nonprofit Mission City Community Fund (MCCF), which has raised $2.3 million for charity over its 30-year history. The evening included live and silent auctions and opportunity drawings for two 2017 San Francisco 49ers season tickets and a decorated holiday tree with $2,500 in gift cards, won by Kent Clerk.


Each of the more than 400 attendees at the $125-a-plate buffet dinner received a $100 casino chip to get the action going at the gaming tables. However, it was all for fun as no actual money was won or lost. At the end of the night, gamblers with the most chips ($3,860 was tops) won donated prizes such as a 50-inch TV or a bottle of wine.

Beyond fundraising and fun, the highlight is always the presentation of two community service awards. The 2016 Austen Warburton Community Service Award was given to Jerry Marsalli, a third generation Santa Claran with a passion for serving others.

Marsalli served 31 years with the Santa Clara Police Department, where he distinguished himself as a financial crimes investigator. He has served in leadership roles in numerous community service organizations and is a City Councilmember. However, Marsalli and his family may best be known for hosting a community Thanksgiving dinner, which began in 2007, with about 100 meals being served. Last year, 750 were served.

Health issues prevented Marsalli from attending the MCCF dinner, so his children and parents, Larry and Elise Marsalli, accepted the award on his behalf.

“My father is disappointed he couldn’t be here. He shared with family that he found it very humbling to be nominated,” said Marsalli’s son Jerod Marsalli.

“My father has been a public servant in Santa Clara most of his life. The award is something he shares with his whole family, including his wife, who passed away earlier this year,” said Jerod. “Thank you very much for this tremendous honor.”

The George and Donna Burdick Business Award was presented to the Heintz family, the founding family of University Electric, 1500 Martin Ave., Santa Clara, in recognition of its long tradition of community involvement and service. University Electric sells major appliances and is consistently in the top 25 sales tax generators in the city. The family’s sons and grandsons continue to run the business begun by Jack and Ruth Heintz in 1919.

MCCF secretary Robin Burdick presented the 2016 Burdick Business Award.

“I’m so honored that an award was named after my dad. I’m following in his footsteps, trying to keep the torch burning,” she said. “I’m a product of my upbringing. I had two wonderful parents who loved Santa Clara, loved being part of this community and loved community service.”

Proceeds from the 2016 Casino Night will go to Silicon Valley nonprofits supporting education, health care, the environment, theater and the arts and social services. MCCF treasurer Harry Fong said that the 2015 dinner netted about $70,000 for grants.

California’s Great America, which donated the venue for a second year, was an in-kind sponsor.

“This is a good opportunity for us to use our facility to benefit the community at a time when it’s not usually used,” said Great America VP and General Manager Raul Rehnborg. “We’re proud to be a partner with MCCF and recognize award recipients. We relish the opportunity to do positive things for the community.”

“This really makes my heart happy. We’re grateful for this community and its continued support,” said MCCF dinner chair Michelle Maghribi. She pointed out that because MCCF is run entirely by volunteers, “Everything goes right into the foundation. There’s no overhead.”

Read more about MCCF, its awards, the 2016 awardees and the grant recipients on the website:


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