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An Outpouring of Community Support

Lutheran Church of the Resurrection sponsors gala art auction to benefit two causes, Garden City resident Jessica Stevens and the church's newest extension, THE LIFE.

There is no shortage of support from the community when it comes to the needs of one of Garden City's own, as demonstrated by the congregation of the Lutheran Church of the Resurrection.

The church hosted a live auction of fine art, sports and other memorabilia Friday night with proceeds benefiting both Jessica Stevens and an extension of the church's mission, a new church called THE LIFE.

Jessica Stevens has just celebrated her 22nd birthday from a hospital bed in Monterey, Mexico where she is participating in a trial procedure called a ketamine coma. The coma treatment is Jessica's last hope in alleviating excruciating pain as a result of Lyme disease and Reflex Sympathetic Disorder (RSD). Her mother, Sarah Gina, is also with her in Mexico for the duration.

THE LIFE, an extension of The Lutheran Church of the Resurrection, is celebrating its first year. The mission of THE LIFE is to welcome the community and teach through community-based ministries its message is relevant and engaging in practical society. The new church is located at 1 Old Westbury Road at Jericho Turnpike in Old Westbury.

Showing support for the cause was Diane Gatto, a member of the church's 850-member congregation. "There has been an outpouring of support and love for the Stevens family and love for THE LIFE; we are just so proud of the fact that we can plant a church in today's economy, to be able to do that is such a blessing," said Gatto. "It's proof; so many congregants, young and old, bought tickets so they could be a part of this. "

Live bidding began at 8 p.m. and continued for more than two hours. There was plenty of chatter and excitement for each new piece that was brought to the display stand. Artwork by well-known artists such as Chagall and Warhol were on display, in addition to things like a signed baseball bat by Alex Rodriguez and an autographed Joe Namath football jersey. The crowd erupted with a harmonized "wow" when a framed photo of the Brooklyn Dodgers was introduced. Each winning bidder was acknowledged with a round of applause for their generous contribution to the night's causes.

AJ Ross Auctions of Manchester Center, VT and Marlin Art of Deer Park, NY presented the auction; the auctioneering itself was quite a crowd pleaser. The auctioneer kept the guests engaged and chuckling throughout the night.

"I heard somebody say before that it wasn't about the art, the wine or food or the number of tickets and paddles sold, but that it was really about Jessica, helping Jessica. She has a wonderful spirit and loves her church," said Nicole Nolan Koester who served at the guest registration table while her son served on the auction floor as a runner for the auctioned pieces. "The event just brings together a number of people under the spirit of somebody like Jessica," Koester said.

Jessica's father, Dave, and youngest sister, Michelle, represented the Stevens family at the event. "Their steadfastness is incredible," said Pastor Jeff Browning. "Their faith is an example to me. They've been through so much and have remained so positive, so optimistic, so hopeful; we cannot help but support them."

Long-time friend of the Stevens family Charlene Martin said, "To Gina [Jessica's mom] this is a show of her friends; she has always done so much, not somebody who sat back, but she's not expecting this, she's just always done for everyone."

Many families, friends, neighbors and local businesses took out full-page ads in the auction program guide. One special message from Gabe, Debbie, Noelle and Alexa Cavacchioli read, "Our prayers are with the Stevens family as we trust our Lord for Jessica's healing."

More than 260 guests in attendance noshed on berry-topped cakes, sushi, sandwich pinwheels and other delectables with service provided by Brian and Kelly Fowler of Fowler & Co. Catering. In addition, the generosity of more than 15 Garden City organizations and businesses made the evening a welcoming and social event.

(Editor's Note: To read more about Jessica Stevens, visit http://patch.com/GrRK.)