Ten years ago at the tender age of 20, Anderson Pugash unexpectedly lost his father to pancreatic cancer. James Pugash was a well-respected real estate finance pioneer and philanthropist. “He always pushed for me to give back to the community,” Pugash told Haute Living last week. “I thought I would give back later in life, but then I realized that to honor my dad I had to do something charitable now. Why not give back at a younger age? You don’t always know how much time you will have here.” And so the San Francisco Social, Pugash’s annual fundraiser was born.
The first year the event was small with paper invitations sent out through snail mail. “It was 2006 and this was sort of right before Facebook got big,” Pugash reminisced. He asked an old friend from high school, Kelly Boynton, to help him put on the party. “I had just moved back to San Francsico after graduating from Penn,” said the Marin-native Boynton. “I was always involved in charity work since high school and realized there wasn’t a good way for young people to get involved. So when Anderson told me about his idea, I saw that it was a great event doing something good for the bigger community. I offered to help in any way that I could.”
The rest is history. 110 people attended the first SF Social, which ended up having to find a new location at the last minute. “I was interning for the Vintage415 guys and they were just about to open the Ambassador, so I was going to do the party there,” said Pugash. “But for whatever reason it wasn’t ready in time, so at the last minute we had to throw it across the street at Rye. We put a sign up on the door telling people to come to Rye. And then people even paid by check.”
While the 10th anniversary of the SF Social — taking place on Saturday, November 21, 2015 — at the W Hotel will definitely be much grander than its original incarnation, Pugash and Boynton are as enthusiastic about giving back as ever. The SF Social is more than just an annual party to them. “We really feel like the people who attend are the next generation of philanthropists. These are the people who are going to be on the charity boards in the future,” said the pretty brunette. “It’s really great to see a younger group get involved,” Pugash agreed. “When we started, our friends didn’t really know what a silent auction was. Now everyone is always really excited for it. This year, we’ve got some amazing giveaways and great raffle items — things like VIP tickets to Coachella, Airbnb stays, and baseballs signed by the Giants players.”
What’s unique about the SF Social is it changes charities every two years. The duo believe that there are so many wonderful local causes to contribute to that they focus on a new non-profit every other year. Proceeds from next month’s event will go to the San Francisco Child Abuse Prevention Center. Past beneficiaries include KIPP Bay Area Schools, Larkin Street Youth Services, and the San Francisco Museums of Fine Arts. “It’s really important for us to help these organizations,” Boynton emphasized. “When we started we had to reach out to the charities and explain to them what we were about, but now the organizations are coming to us.” If a local nonprofit is chosen as a beneficiary, the SF Social team does everything they can to help them, from making hip youthful videos for social media to cooking meals for families in need to hosting men’s suit drives. “There are so many people who want to volunteer that we’ve added that component,” Boynton said. “It’s exciting to see your friends bring toys to a toy drive or dress up as bunny for an Easter event for abused children.”
With a yet to be announced big name DJ on the lineup, this year’s social is expected to draw 500 well-dressed young professionals. Party goers can look forward to quite the memorable soiree: Since he started the fundraiser, Pugash has gone on to create his own nightlife group, Crossroads, which is one of the city’s largest promotion firms and most popular party planners. Pugash also opened two restaurants, Palm House and the brand new Dorian, a cocktail bar, Bergerac, and a nightclub, Audio, so it’s safe to say the handsome man about town knows a thing or two about putting on a haute happening.
When asked what we can expect for the next ten years of the SF Social, Pugash is eager to do more. “I would really like to create a million dollar event. I want to keep upping the ante and continue to grow it. We’ve got to keep growing the awareness about giving back.” No doubt whatever amount they raise, the man who inspired him, Pugash’s father, will be watching down from heaven and applauding his son’s valiant contributions to the greater good.