Ben Affleck makes first public appearance since debuting new girlfriend Lindsay Shookus

The relationship is no longer a secret, but it's not quite red-carpet ready.

Ben Affleck made his first formal appearance Sunday since going public with his new romance, but girlfriend Lindsay Shookus was nowhere in sight. The actor was honored at a charity gala for the Starkey Hearing Foundation in recognition of his humanitarian work with Eastern Congo Initiative.

Shookus, a "Saturday Night Live" producer, was seemingly absent from the Minnesota affair. In recent days, paparazzi spotted her with Affleck near his L.A. home.

Controversy around the relationship has swirled since news broke that Affleck and Shookus allegedly began their affair in 2013, while both were still married: Shookus, at the time, had a newborn baby with now-ex husband Kevin Miller, while Affleck was of course married to Jennifer Garner.

But Affleck left the drama behind him for the swanky affair, during which he emphasized to press his commitment to improving the lives of the people of eastern Congo. He has partnered with the Starkey Hearing Foundation to provide hearing aids to residents of the embattled area.

Affleck opened up to People about sharing his experiences in Congo with his kids: "I think helping my children expand their consciousness of other cultures, struggles, and issues outside of their own and outside of our country is one of the most important responsibilities I have as a parent and as a citizen –- now more than ever," he said. " My kids are amazing -- always asking a million questions, wanting to see photos and hear stories. I can't wait for them to be old enough to experience Congo for themselves."