THE FIRST ANNUAL GALA FUNDRAISER at Green-Wood Historic Chapel Oct. 3 honored Pulitzer prize-winning author DEBBY APPLEGATE with the DeWitt Clinton Award. Applegate has earned much critical acclaim since the 2006 publication of her biography, Henry Ward Beecher: The Most Famous Man in America.

Applegate spent 20 years researching Henry Ward Beecher (including several years of college, seven years of graduate school and another seven years of research and writing) before publishing Most Famous in 2006. As she wrote on her blog bio, her fascination with Beecher began as an American history-obsessed 18-year-old, when, as a student worker in the Amherst College Archives, she was asked to create a display of “notorious but forgotten alumni.”

“I was raised in a very unusual religious environment — my mother’s family is Mormon, my father’s is Irish Catholic, I grew up around many evangelical Christians in Oregon and my mother is a New Thought minister—and Beecher seemed to embody the best of what religion could offer. I loved his very modern sense of humor and irreverence toward old sacred cows, and his joyful, ecumenical approach to religion and life in general. Except, of course, for the fact that he was accused (but never convicted) of an affair with his own parishioner—which explains why he’d been forgotten.”

After seizing upon Beecher as a great idea for a seminar paper, Applegate says she had no idea how much and how long “Beecher would capture my imagination.”

She graduated summa cum laude from Amherst College in 1989 and earned a Ph.D. in American studies from Yale. She has since taught at Yale and Wesleyan universities, and her writing has earned her numerous awards and fellowships. Debby lives between New Haven, Conn., and Portland, Oregon, with her husband, advisor, speaker and writer BRUCE TULGAN.

On Oct. 30, Applegate will give a talk at Brooklyn Heights’ Plymouth Church, where Rev. Henry Ward Beecher was the first and founding pastor, called, “Religion, Sex and Politics: Henry Ward Beecher and the Three Things Never to be Discussed in Polite Company.”

BROOKLYN RESIDENT PAIGE STRACKMAN entered her idea to help save the lives of malnourished children to the Members Project from American Express (www.members contest. Her idea was selected from 1,190 submitted ideas for inclusion in the top 25. As of last week, due to card member voting, it is now in the top five.

Those top five winning ideas will share $2.5 million in funding, with the project that receives the most votes winning $1.5 million and the others divvying up the remaining amount between them.

Strackman writes about her project: “Giving starving children food is not enough. The food needs to contain the vitamins, micronutrients and calories a developing child needs to survive. New ready-to-use food (RUF) is individually packaged, is stable in hot climates, does not need to be mixed with water (no risk of contamination) and even tastes good. With this treatment there is simply no reason for children to die of starvation anymore.”

From today through Oct. 13, card members can go online to vote for which of the five finalists they think deserves to receive $1.5 million in funding to see their project come to life.

THE NEW UTRECHT REFORMED CHURCH will have its usual new and slightly used clothing, electronic items, toys and bric-a-brac for its thrift sale on Saturday, Oct. 18, along with something special, according to church member ROSE GIANNINI LOOD of Bay Ridge. “This year,” Lood says, “we are getting contributions from estates — and some of what I am seeing is magnificent!”