The last day of the month will be huge for Cindie Barker.
It's the Sanibel businesswoman's first year organizing one of the biggest fund-raisers in southwest Florida, the annual Love That Dress funder for the PACE Center for Girls in Fort Myers. Only a handful of charity events are higher profile. The dress-collection event in past seasons had been organized by Sanibel realtor Barb Harrington. This is the event's sixth season. Past events have raised some $150,000 for PACE.
The event this year is July 31 at the Blue Coyote Supper Club in Sanibel. Cindie Barker manages the new location next to the Sanibel Golf Club. Blue Coyote also operates a private supper club in Fort Myers.
Event organizer Cindie Barker (left) and Kimi Sutherland
Hundreds of women's dresses and accessories will be collected July 31 for the grand event on Aug. 27 at the Embassy Suites in Estero.
Ticket, raffles and silent auction sales, sponsor donations and other funds are also collected at the July 31 event. A portion of food sales will also be donated. Ticketed donors will receive a complimentary cocktail and appetizers, dinner is a separately priced option, said Barker, legendary in the southwest Florida restaurant industry for, among other events, her "Sex in the City" benefits. One such good-natured event attracted a thousand women dressed in "Sex in the City" accessories. A Fort Myers cinema was almost over-run with red-carpet participants.
Still, the PACE event is new for the veteran organizer.
"Of course I'm nervous," Barker said of the PACE event, "but it's exciting. It's all for a great cause. And I've always been a huge supporter of PACE."
Men play a role in the event, but Love that Dress is more of a women's night out. Women donate gently used clothing to the benefit, with the proceeds forwarded and the clothing sold at the Aug. 27 event at the Embassy Suites in Estero. Shoes, purses, pantsuits, dresses, jewelry are welcomed. The Estero event will feature private dressing rooms, beverages and food.
PACE began in 1985 with one Center in Jacksonville, serving 10 girls. PACE this year opened its eighteenth center in Miami. Each year some 2,000 girls are served, or about 21,000 in almost 30 years.
The PACE model provides comprehensive mental health and social services, daily middle school and high school academic instruction, development of school-to-work readiness skills and follow-up transition services. PACE is recognized as an effective program for keeping girls out of the juvenile justice system and helping them find success in school, at home and in the community.
And the PACE mission is timely, experts agree, especially with the high number of teens girls becoming single mothers. The US Census Bureau reports six out of 10 women who give birth in their early 20s are unmarried. Income and education are closely linked to the trend. The national birth rate for unmarried women in 2007 was up 80 percent in the almost three decades since 1980.
Barb Harrington said the PACE event is the "ultimate feel good shopping spree (that) has always been well supported by islanders. This year the (ShopOnSanibel) merchants are passing the torch to the Blue Coyote Supper Club."
For her part, Barker said there are few events that give so much.
"The (PACE) girls benefit," she said, "and the donors get to dress up and do something very responsible for the community. It's a blast."
Love That Dress:
When: July 31, 5-7 p.m.
Who: 6th annual PACE Center for Girls benefit
What: Dress/accessory collection/gently used
What to expect: 150 guests, silent auction, gifts/baskets, cocktails/light appetizers/available dinner food
Where: Blue Coyote Supper Club, 1100 Par View Drive, Sanibel
Owner: Mitch Schwenke
Organizer: Cindie Barker
Tickets/details: (239) 472-9222