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Ladies who lunch (and shop)

Fashion shows feature latest senior styles, raise funds

Created date

July 6th, 2016
Ann's Choice fashion show participants.

Residents who modeled in Ann’s Choice’s fashion show include (from left) Ellen Newman, Lorraine Madow, Nancy Bennett, Edie Krieger, Elaine Adair, Gisela Schuett, and Irene Heller.

Decades ago, women donned a Sunday dress, put on white gloves and a Sunday hat, and then traveled to a department store downtown for a ladies luncheon and a trunk show of the latest fashions. 

The white gloves and the Sunday dress and hat may have disappeared a generation ago, but at Ann’s Choice, Erickson Living’s retirement community in Bucks County, Pa., residents traveled only as far as the community’s multipurpose room (like a mini convention center) to attend the community’s biennial event: The March 11 luncheon, fashion show, and shopping spree.

Ann’s Choice partnered with TaylorMarie’s, a mobile retail clothing store that features high-quality brands of women’s clothing and helps women’s organizations do fundraising.

A coincidental collaboration

Community member Jane Neiger and Community Resources Coordinator Tina Ruzzi-Longello collaborated on the event to benefit the community’s Resident Care Fund.

Jane had looked in vain for a suitable store to partner with on a fashion show. “So when Tina showed me TaylorMarie’s brochure, it sounded unique, and I thought residents would enjoy it,” she says.

“The residents are like the activity directors,” says Ruzzi-Longello. “The staff provides the resources and facilities for them. Jane’s passion to have a fashion show and my idea of TaylorMarie’s came together at the same time.”

To promote the free shopping event, TaylorMarie’s representative Sarah Ott was interviewed at Ann’s Choice’s in-house TV station. 

All 200 tickets for the luncheon, prepared by the catering department at Ann’s Choice, sold out. The gourmet meal that began with roasted sweet pepper and Gouda bisque ended with a decadent homemade dessert, sublime slices of Oreo cheesecake. 

On the catwalk

The post-luncheon fashion show featured eight community members modeling their choices from nearly 20 display racks of styles ranging from casual to formal and sizes from petite to plus. 

Assistant Executive Director George Comfort, who wore a tuxedo for the occasion, escorted the models to a runway that nearly spanned the room. The women did their best runway walk, then strolled among the tables so guests could feel the fabrics and ask questions.

Jane handled ticket sales, emceed the event, and modeled. She liked her outfits so much that she bought them both. 

But what she most enjoyed was the ease of on-site shopping, the pleasant atmosphere, and the helpful, no-pressure attitudes of Ott’s entourage of assistants. 

Even women who missed the luncheon came to shop and purchase, making the fundraiser a rousing success.

The Ann’s Choice Resident Care Fund is dear to Jane’s heart. A veteran event organizer and logistics manager, she collaborates with Philanthropy Director Susan Abtouche to develop and put on nearly a score of entertainment programs each year to benefit the fund, which was created to help support residents who experience a genuine and unforeseen change in their financial situation.

For the fashion show luncheon, Jane solicited campus departments for door prizes. The pharmacy, for example, donated a $50 gift certificate to be used there, and administration donated two $25 certificates to be used in the pharmacy or in any campus restaurant. Housekeeping donated a gift certificate for cleaning services.  

“The staff is always so generous,” Jane says. 

She adds that the event offered Ann’s Choice neighbors an opportunity to come together for something special and to be entertained.