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Gotta Love That Dress!

By Staff | May 30, 2013

JIM LINETTE Love That Dress returns to the Village Shoppes on Sanibel for the second year in a row on June 18 for the benefit of the PACE Center for Girls in Fort Myers. Showing off collected dresses from left are Mark Blust of Prawnbroker Group; Aislinn Kane of Zebra Yogurt; Janet Strickland, attorney; Rhonda Hodgson of Royal Shell Properties; Sarak Ashton of Royal Shell Real Estate; Barb Harrington, event coordinator of Royal Shell Companies; Tara Kane of Zebra Yogurt; Jessica Reimer of Hillgate Communidations; Tyrone Humbles of Sanibel Captiva Chamber of Commerce; and Brigit Stone-Budd, Chamber of Commerce marketing director.

The PACE Center for Girls is celebrating its fifth anniversary of its biggest fundraising event of the year known as Love That Dress.

It has become known as a girls’ night out shopping spree where mostly adult benefactors purchase gently used dresses with the proceeds going to PACE to support educational, training, advocacy and counseling programs for teenage girls and young women from unfortunate circumstances.

“Our programs are focused on making a better future for girls and women who have been abused, neglected or abandoned and usually have issues with school or the juvenile detention system,” said Love That Dress chairwoman Kendra Sutton. “We like to say we help them find their way. Our program is proud to have the highest statistics of clients no longer returning to the juvenile system at 94 percent; and 88 percent improve their academic performance.”

PACE Center for Girls in Lee County can only serve about 52 girls at one time, according to Sutton. Since its founding in 2007, the center has helped more than 1,000 girls.

“That’s why we are seeking to get a new building to be able to serve more girls,” said Sutton.

The Love That Dress event on Sanibel draws more than 100 attendees each year and it typically is the county’s No. 2 largest grossing local event between the collection and party and additional donations.

“They do a fabulous job for this non-profit every year,” said Sutton.

“We typically get very nice dresses donated,” said Sanibel event coordinator Barb Harrington of Royal Shell Companies, one of several main business sponsors on the islands. “We’ve picked up $130,000 off the dress sale. Adults buy the dresses and the PACE girls get the benefit.”

Harrington said this year’s Love That Dress collection party is 5-7:30 p.m. on June 18. Raffle tickets are five for $20 on items less than $100 in value, and $20 tickets on items valued at more than $100. Admission to the event is the donation of one or more dresses, gently used, from beach wear to bridal dresses. The Sanibel Merchants, Enchanted Ballroom and A New Beginning Events DJ provide many of the raffle items and entertainment. Prawnbroker Group provides the food and beverages through Matzaluna Italian Kitchen.

“It’s all about the community donating the dresses and attending the events,” said Sutton.

Participating businesses collect the dresses, and some handbags, from may through July ahead of the huge sales event this year from 5 to 9 p.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 28, at Embassy Suites in Estero.

An estimated 800 fashionistas (and a few brave men) are expected to stake their claim on thousands dresses and accessories selling for nominal prices. Guests also enjoy the event’s popular silent auction, camaraderie, and cocktails.

Major sponsors will have access to the VIP shopping offering private dressing rooms, clothing hold, express check-out service, complimentary adult beverages and hors d’oeuvres and a private selection of decadent chocolates.

For additional information contact Sutton at LoveThatDress5@gmail.com or 239-910-6414, Jennifer Nelson, operations & logistics volunteer at JenniferNelson@goodwillswfl.org or 239-822-8708 or Janie Smalley, PACE Lee executive director Janie.Smalley@pacecenter.org or 239-229-9013.