It may have been poorly kept, but Columbus House’s “secret” was still a hit.

The New Haven homeless shelter and counseling center hosted its annual fund-raiser, entitled “We’ve Got a Secret,” Thursday night at the Yale School of Art’s Holcombe T. Green Hall.

While the secret — that Columbus House is working to construct a second shelter — was already known to most in the audience, it got a hefty round of applause from those in attendance when Cheever Tyler, the chairman of the organization’s Capital Campaign Steering Committee, made the official announcement.

Before the revelation, however, Columbus House honored local activist Anne Tyler Calabresi and Michael Morand ’87, Yale’s associate vice president for New Haven and state affairs, for their “significant contributions to the Greater New Haven community.”

Calabresi is on the boards of a number of local community organizations, including the New Haven International Festival of Arts and Ideas, the Community Foundation of Greater New Haven, L.E.A.P. and Long Wharf Theatre.

“Being honored — and mentioned with Anne Calabresi is among the highest honors I can imagine,” said Morand, who served two terms as Ward 1 alderman and is currently on the Board of Directors for Patrons of the New Haven Public LIbrary, among other local organizations.

Despite her multiple involvements, Calabresi harbors a special affection for Columbus House.

“It’s wonderful to be part of an institution that is so incredibly essential to the well-being of our city,” Calabresi said.

Helen Loughlin, director of case management services for Columbus House, said the two honorees were acknowledged for their overall effort in the community.

“They’ve done outstanding work,” Loughlin said. “Anne’s involved with children. Michael is on the board at the soup kitchen. And their involvement goes all the way up to the arts.”

Morand partially attributed his work to his involvement with Yale.

“I’m blessed to work with an organization that makes working in the community such a priority,” Morand said.

After a round of speeches by the honorees and others, Tyler revealed the secret alluded to throughout the evening: Earlier that afternoon, Columbus House, Inc., had officially launched its Capital Campaign project to build another shelter.

For most people present, however, the revelation came as no surprise. New Haven’s government donated $3.7 million this past summer to Columbus House for this purpose.

“It’s our not-so-secret secret,” said Carole Greenbaum, co-chairwoman of the Capital Campaign.

Columbus House directors admitted that the project is ambitious. The new shelter will double the organization’s current lodging capacity when it opens in the summer of 2002.

“This will be the largest fund-raiser in Columbus House’s history,” Greenbaum said. “We’re seeking to raise a minimum of $5 million.”

Columbus House has thus far raised $4 million — plus a $25,000 check from the University that Morand presented to the organization after his speech.

But the fund-raiser, Columbus House’s largest of the year, was not intended to raise funds for the Capital Campaign. Loughlin said she expected it to generate over $40,000, but added that this money would not go specifically toward the shelter.

“None of our programs are fully funded,” Loughlin said. “We maintain an undesignated fund pool. All of our programs will benefit from it.”

Loughlin added that the intent of the fund-raiser was more to heighten awareness than to gather donations.

“These events are really more public relations than anything,” Loughlin said. “We pick up a lot of new friends this way.”

As for Columbus House’s old friends, Calabresi and Morand both said they intend to continue their involvement in the New Haven area.

“We’re going to continue to work with our neighbors to make New Haven an even stronger community,” Morand said.