Crab Cooker royalty Helen Roubian and her daughter Rhonda Wasko welcome 40 members of "The 1221 Club" for lunch. (Aaron Trent / February 27, 2014)

The value of education remains a priority for a majority of Newport-Mesa parents, as well as for citizens at large.

America needs an educated population. Worldwide competition is more demanding than ever. The difficulty in gaining university admittance and the challenge of finishing and paying for that education is daunting.

Last week in Newport Beach, a confederation of like-minded women dedicated to assisting Newport-Mesa students find a path to higher education got together for a winter repast.

The 1221 Club, in association with the Balboa Bay Club -- its name taken from the address of the 65-year-old social institution on Pacific Coast Highway -- has for the past 15 years been the largest grantor of unrestricted college scholarships bestowed upon Newport-Mesa high school seniors from all campuses in the district. In total, scholarships awarded are approaching the $2-million mark.

In 2012, the Balboa Bay Club was purchased by the Richard Pickup family in association with the Meritage Collection of hotel properties led by the Tim Busch investment organization. Stewardship of the 1221 Club fell into the dedicated hands of Carole Pickup and her daughter Devon Martin and daughter-in-law Natalie Pickup, both mothers of school-age children.

A major financial contribution from the Pickup family along with a re-energized community base has allowed the organization to fulfill promises to local youth for years to come. Also making this community resource possible have been the contributions of both time and financial support from local leaders including Norman Loats, John Wortmann, Catherine Thyen, Noel Hamilton and Arden Flamson.

It is crucial to acknowledge the 1221 Club membership.

Like most charitable organizations, it is the roster of donors that ultimately makes the difference. At the invitation of Carole Pickup, 40 members of the 1221 Club arrived at the Balboa Bay Club at 11 a.m. Feb. 27, boarded the red and yellow OC Cruiser bus, complete with surfboards on the roof, and headed down the highway to the Balboa Peninsula. Destination: the iconic Crab Cooker restaurant owned and operated for decades by 1221 Club member Helen Roubian and her husband Bob and family.

Helen and her daughter Rhonda Wasko greeted the cruising crush for a Thursday luncheon of the finest fresh fish ever served on paper plates. Two long banquet tables each seating 20 guests bisected the main dining room of the Crab Cooker, its walls hung floor-to-ceiling with more than a half-century of Roubian art and mementos.

Once Donna Anderson, Madeline Zuckerman, Nancy Burnett, Kathy Hamilton, Noralee Paulson, Mary Roosevelt, Pamela Young, Loretta Haugen and Ginny Savage all were seated, the Crab Cooker's wait staff presented its famous shrimp cocktails and chowder accompanied by made-in-the-kitchen sourdough bread.

Also enjoying the camaraderie were Myrna Blalock, Clara Clem, Janet Curci, Denise Schuler, Allegra Brown, Beverly Stern, Marsha Santry, Jana Williams and Rita Sprinkel. An amazing luncheon of grilled shrimp, scallops and cracked crab was served with an array of side dishes. And for dessert, key lime cheesecake.

"The 1221 Club was formed to bring women of the community together with the purpose of helping students in our own community," said Zuckerman. "We have done a remarkable job over the years and we are all proud to support Carole Pickup as she takes the organization into a new chapter."

THE CROWD runs Fridays. B.W. Cook is editor of the Bay Window, the official publication of the Balboa Bay Club in Newport Beach.