Last night I attended a benefit/fashion show called "Denim, Designers & Donations," hosted by Elizabeth Zepp, Jill Peterson and Lisa Surino from Agora, Inc., at Red Maple in Mt. Vernon. The event, which sold out in two days, featured Agora employees modeling clothes from local stores to benefit the Roberto Clemente, Santa Ana Health Clinic in Nicaragua. The clinic supplies free and low-cost medical care to the isolated villages and communities in the southwest part of the country.
When I arrived around 6:15, Red Maple was already packed. The bottom floor was reserved for press and VIPs, but the top floor was general admission and looked wall-to-wall crowded. Attendees were sipping on Prosecco and nibbling on pot stickers and mini bruschetta (food was generously provided by businessman Greg Barnhill). I got a chance to take a peek upstairs where the models were prepping. On the girls side of the floor, Agora event coordinator/model Jill Peterson said she was a little nervous for the show, but more excited than anything. The girls were dressed in fashion provided by Babe in Federal Hill, however owner Lisa Ponzoli couldn't attend the event because she had to watch the shop. I reached her today and she said this about her selections: "We wanted to go with the whole Nicaraguan theme with bright colors like coral and bright green," she said. "Of course they also tied in with the upcoming spring and summer seasons. Just fun."
Over on the guys side of the room, things were a little more low-key. They were grabbing a bit to eat (and drinking away some nerves) before the show started. All of the guys were styled by Reason (the male counterpart to Whimsy in Federal Hill). Store co-owner Jen Solomon and Reason manager Nikki Reese said they picked a broad range for the show. "Some of the clothes have a military theme, with the shoulder epaulets," Solomon said. "But then we have more preppy looks with more of a boating feel." Reese explained that they only had a couple of days to put the outfits together (Jean Pool in Mt. Washington was originally slated to dress the men, but unfortunately had financial difficulties because of a recent break-in). "We've done events like this before, but this was the quickest we had to work," Reese said. "We wanted to show that our store really caters to every style."
As the show was about to start, I got back downstairs and listened to the speakers. The clinic's operational manager, Juan Muñoz, spoke candidly and passionately about the work that they do. "The idea is about building community in Nicaragua," he said. "And providing simple healthcare for people who don't have the money and resources that we have." He explained that the money people donate goes to paying for doctors, nurses, and equipment for the clinic's roughly 10,000 patients per year. There were plenty of ways to give last night. Besides ticket sales, Red Maple gave 15 percent of the drink sales towards the clinic and there was a $1 raffle with a chance to win a trip to Nicaragua, a Mt. Vernon prize package, or beautiful Nicaraguan pottery. Plus, Agora matches any donations by 100 percent.
The fashion show went off without a hitch. There were 10 Agora employees walking down the "runway" in two sets of outfits, stopping to pose under the spotlight at the end while Gutter magazine photographer Sarah Beck snapped away. The models walked from one end of Red Maple, up the stairs to the next floor, and back again. After the show, Julia Guth, who helped establish the clinic and oversees some of the financial and travel publications for Agora, gave thanks. "I’m very proud that we are helping to provide better health and sanitation,” Guth said. “We can save lives and uplift spirits in those villages.”
To find out more about the clinic and possibly donate, please see their website: nicaclinic.org
[Image: courtesy of Kimi Aghevli]