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Love that Dress Collection Party to be held at SS Hookers

By Staff | Jun 1, 2016

Allyson Ross, PACE Center for Girls; Nancy Finch, Realtor with John Naumann & Associates; Cookie Douglas with John R Wood Properties; Colleen Quenzel with Quenzel & Associates; Sandy Stilwell, Stilwell Enterprises & Restaurant Group CEO and owner; SS Hookers Manager and Chef John Feagans and Sara Garner, PACE Center for Girls. MEGHAN McCOY

The official Sanibel/Captiva Collection Party, which is being held for the eighth annual Love that Dress event, will be held at SS Hookers, just before the Sanibel causeway, Wednesday, June 15.

“Both men and women are invited,” Stilwell Enterprises & Restaurant Group CEO and owner said Sandy Stilwell, who is also on the executive committee for PACE Center for the Girls. “We want people to attend and drop off dresses. We also want people to stay and bid on silent auction, Chinese auction and live auction items.”

The second annual Sunset will be held from 5 to 8 p.m., at SS Hookers Waterfront Restaurant, 17501 Harbour Point Drive. The event has a $15 admission charge with a donation of new or gently loved dresses, shoes, accessories and handbags. It is $20 admission without donation. Admission includes one free drink.

The event will also include a selection of hook, line and sinker appetizers and cash bar with proceeds from the signature cocktail going to PACE Center for Girls, Lee.

Stilwell, who is an immediate past president of PACE Center for the Girls, said the center holds a special place in her heart because they help girls who are in need of not only academic help, but emotional help.

“We provide a loving, safe environment with mentors who help them learn how they can take their past pain and grow,” she said. “We help transform the girls from being victims to being victors. We have a growing scholarship program that gives the girls hope that they can be successful in their future. Some want to be social workers and attorneys. Some want to be nurses. Others want to be hairdressers and we actually have scholarships for that as well. Empowering the girls to have a positive self image is important. They learn how to work through their anger issues and in many families they become the change agent and entire families benefit. Ninety-six percent of our girls do not get back in trouble with the juvenile justice system after attending our Pace Center. Our ranking is the highest ranking in the state of Florida!”

PACE Center for the Girls Special Projects Associate Allyson Ross said Stilwell has been an incredible supporter and champion for PACE.

“She has an amazing committee of dynamic women working hard to make the second annual Sunset event a shining success. Last year they raised almost $22,000 in a single night,” she said.

Ross said this year the eighth annual Love that Dress will be held Aug. 24, at the Embassy Suites Fort Myers.

“This event is one of our feature fundraisers for the PACE organization. Our center founded it eight years ago. Since its inception we have had the most amazing community support,” Ross said.

Last year the event raised $140,000 for the PACE Center for Girls and the year prior raised $130,000. The proceeds benefit programs and services at the PACE Center for Girls.

“It has been a very successful and very steady fundraiser for us,” Ross said.

Embassy Suites has been a major sponsor over the years, as well as Miromar Outlets who donates a storage unit. Ross said they generate and sell about 4,000 pieces of inventory for the Love that Dress event and take in about double that.

Goodwill Industry has also stepped up and helped PACE Center for Girls by donating all the fixtures for the event, as well as helping with transportation of the inventory collected from the Collection Party. Ross said everything they do not use for the main August event is donated to Goodwill, which in turn provides PACE with vouchers that the girls at the school can use for themselves, or for their homes.

“The community support is astounding,” Ross said. “I personally came in as a volunteer. I really fell in love with the organization, the mission and success is astounding. The fundraiser was remarkable because of the community support, bringing a lot of people together for one cause.”

This year, PACE Center for the Girls has seven partners who are hosting a Collection Party throughout the summer. The first party was held Tuesday, May 24, for the seventh annual SPADA-thon with poker tournament and the final one will be held Friday, July 29, at Six Bends Davidson Season Finale Event. A complete list of Collection Party’s can be viewed at www.lovethatdressleecounty.com/#collection.

“The event would not be where it is today without those community partners from an inventory aspect,” Ross said.

In addition to the Collection Party, sponsorship opportunities are also available. Ross said one of the features of the main event, Aug. 24, is they have a VIP floor at the Embassy Suites. Embassy Suites gives PACE the entire second floor, which they turn into corporate suites and girlfriend suites.

The corporate suites are $2,500, which comes with eight tickets. With the sponsorship, a corporate suite provides early access to shopping and the ballroom. It also provides the suite stocked with food and beverages, and an individual removing items from the suite they are not interested in purchasing. The corporate sponsor also receives recognition through PACE’s advertising campaign during the summer months.

The girlfriend suite is $1,500 for 10 tickets. The suite provides all the same services as corporate, besides the recognition through PACE’s advertising campaign.

“It’s quite an event,” Ross said. “We have about 600 women that show up that night.”

She said White House Black Market donates hundreds of new dresses, shoes, handbags and jewelry for the event, all sold at incredible prices.

“It’s an ultimate girls night out for an ultimate shopping spree of the summer,” Ross said. “Stock up your closet in support of a great cause.”

Stilwell said she loves the synergy of people working together to help the girls.

“It’s a fun way to donate your gently used dresses. We have designer dresses, everyday dresses, ball gowns, wedding gowns, etc,” she said of the event.

The mission of PACE Center for Girls, Lee is “provides girls and young women an opportunity for a better future through education, counseling, training and advocacy.”

The center’s 2014 statistics include 106 girls being served with an average age of 14.8. Eighty-seven percent of the girls were failing one or more classes before attending PACE and 29 percent had a prior arrest.

A year after leaving PACE, 96 percent had no involvement with the criminal justice system and 93 percent improved academically while at PACE. In addition, 76 percent of the girls were in school, higher education, or employed after leaving PACE.

For more information about Love that Dress, visit www.lovethatdress.org.

Follow Meghan @IslanderMeghan on Twitter.