The building on 19th Street in Costa Mesa that for 14 years has housed the Someone Cares Soup Kitchen was previously a Chinese restaurant run by So Ching Lee, whose sons Wing Lam, Ed Lee and Mingo Lee would go on to create the Wahoo's Fish Taco empire.
Based on that simple handshake deal between Mama Lee and Someone Cares founder Merle Hatelberg--as well as support of the nonprofit ever since--the Lee family is being honored at the charity's annual gala Saturday night.
The 24th annual gala, which runs from 6-9 p.m. Saturday at Someone Cares, 720 W. 19th St., Costa Mesa, does not have a Chinese theme like Mama Lee's restaurants, nor a Baja theme like her sons' world famous fish tacos, but a Hawaiian theme.
That's still appropriate because Wahoo's has always identified with surf culture and Da Kine grinds. (It was once written here that the original Wahoo's around the corner from Someone Cares on Placentia Avenue just below 19th Street is seemingly held together by surf stickers.)
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Hatelberg, who opened Someone Cares 24 years ago and celebrates her birthday at the gala, has always acknowledged the contributions and involvement with her soup kitchen by the Lee boys and their mom.
Someone Cares had been operating out of a nearby church, but pressure from congregants caused Hatelberg to seek a new home. Thanks to that handshake with So Ching Lee, the nonprofit has gone on to become one of the most impactful charities in Orange County.
It now serves daily more than 450 people--from the working poor and economically disadvantaged to families with school-aged children, senior citizens, mentally or physically challenged and the homeless. They come from eight cities, including Costa Mesa, Newport Beach and Huntington Beach.
The gala includes live music, hors d'oeuvres, dinner and a silent auction. All proceeds support the Someone Cares Hunger Relief and Tutoring Programs. Tickets for the gala are available for $100. Go to someonecareskitchen.org for more information.