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Dress For Success Worldwide Toast to Mother honorees Rev. Shirley Canty and Helen Williams pose with their family members: Joseph Canty, Sr., Joseph Canty, Jr., Chris Canty, honoree Rev. Shirley Canty, honoree Helen Williams, Jillian Hervey, Sasha Fox, Vanessa Williams

*On Tuesday, April 3, 2012, Dress for Success Worldwide (DFS) celebrated its 15th anniversary for its commitment to empowering women everywhere at a gala dinner that featured a regal reception and silent auction followed by a sumptuous dinner and program at The Grand Hyatt at Grand Central, New York City presented by Diageo, dressbarn, FedEx, lia sophia, RBS, style, and verizonfoundation.

Dress For Success Worldwide chief executive officer Joi Gordon welcomed some 1,000 guests to the festive anniversary celebration that raised a whopping $1.2 million.  “What a phenomenal 15 years it has been,” she exclaimed!  “When I think about the story of Dress for Success – and how far we have come in such a short time – I am often left speechless.  And this awe I feel about our own success mirrors that which I feel when I consider the journey of each and every woman we serve.”

Gordon beamed as she shared great news about a generous gift the organization received from Wal-mart for $2M to fund its newest program, The Going Places Network, which serves as a safety net for women who have been successful in finding a job.  The Wal-mart grant is the largest single gift in the history of DFS.

Gordon went on to acknowledge and thank Nancy Lublin, DFS’s visionary founder.  She also thanked the women.  “You are truly the essence of Dress for Success and the reason why this organization has never been simply a job for me – it has been a passion,” she beamed.  “Tonight, let us celebrate the past 15 years with joy in our eyes and pride in our hearts,” she concluded with unbridled pride.

While guests dined on arugula, pear & reggiano salad with walnuts and a goat cheese fritter; dual entrée of filet of beef and herbed halibut with lemon-caper sauce, creamy wild rice, pearl onions and grilled vegetable trio; chocolate tulip with fresh berries over mascarpone mousse and balsamic drizzle, dynamic Rosalyn Taylor O’Neale conducted the popular “pledge for support” segment in which she engaged guests to ante up and buy money balloons to further inflate support for DFS’s goals to suit women for the work force..

Each year, DFS honors staunch supporters.  This year’s trio of honorees included lia sophia, with award acceptance by Elena Kiam, creative director, lia sophia and Tory Kiam, president, lia Sophia; Posterscope, with award acceptance by Connie Garrido, chief executive officer, Posterscope USA; and RBS, with award acceptance by Bob McKillip, co-head, markets and international banking, Americas and head, international banking, Americas.

Another centerpiece of the annual happening is to honor single mothers who represent more than 70% of the organization’s clientele.  “In their honor, tonight we celebrate their commitment to building a better life for themselves and their families,” stated Gordon.

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Dress For Success Worldwide 'Success Ambassadors'

This year’s honorees included Rev. Shirley Canty, Mother of Super Bowl XLVI Champion Chris Canty of the New York Giants, who was cheered on by her husband Joseph Canty, Sr. and sons Chris and Joseph Canty, Jr.; and Helen Williams, Mother of actor Christopher Williams and actress Vanessa Williams.  Vanessa brought along her daughters Jillian and Sasha to root for her Mom and their Grandma.

“These two exemplary mothers represent mothers everywhere who have made sacrifices and worked tirelessly to ensure the success of their own children,” said Gordon.

In addition DFS honored fifteen Success Ambassadors.  “Tonight we are proud to recognize fifteen women who are a part of Dress for Success and who are a wonderful testament to the impact of our organization,” said Gorden.

Gordon invited the women to join her onstage as she praised designer David Meister and makeup guru Bobbi Brown for the glamorous new looks they created for the honorees:  Mary Esther Ahern, Hasina Aluns, Anahy Antara, Pamela Aquino, Esther Barnett, Tiffany Bedford, Maria Beltran, Eve Cardona, Nicole Corbin, Mary Cravvero, Antonia Donato, Desmay Holness, Rosemary McKenna, Bianca Ortiz and Fatimata Sakanoko.

Another highlight of the stellar dinner program included a moving speech by the keynote speaker, Success Ambassador Tiffany Bedford who detailed her struggles and eventual triumph, with help from Dress for Success, as an entrepreneur.

Board of directors, Dress for Success Worldwide president Clarice Kennedy, Resources Global Professionals, served as gala chairperson.  In her closing remarks, Kennedy congratulated the honorees and thanked the presenting, platinum and gold sponsors of DFS.  “The success of our women is also your success,” she said.  “I would also like to thank my colleagues who have leant their names, time, thoughts, and talents to ensure that this evening is truly ‘Something to Share!’”

Frank Aquila, Dorria Ball, Alex Garfield, Donna Griffin, Robbin Mitchell and Rosalyn O’Neal served on the chair committee with a stellar host committee.  Guests received magnificent swag bags containing fabulous gifts from some of the sponsors.

DFS promotes the economic independence of disadvantaged women by providing professional attire, a network of support and career development tools to help them thrive in work and in life.  They began with a mission to solve a paradox affecting disadvantaged women: without a job, she can’t afford a suit, but she cannot land a job without a suit.  Today, the organization has put over 650,000 women in suits and prepared them for the journey ahead.  They have gone from one boutique to centers in 118 cities in 14 countries with over 150,000 volunteers and donors.  (Photos by Eugene Mim / Patrick McMullen)

Audrey J. Bernard is an established chronicler of Black society and Urban happenings based in the New York City area.

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