Fashion Event Raises Money for Women’s Homes

Salem, MA— Jeff Gibley, 55, is no stranger to fashion shows. So when a friend asked him to participate in “The Art of Dressing Fashion Show” hosted by the Brookhouse Home for Women and the Woman’s Friend Society, he quickly offered the tuxedos from his shop J. Gibley Tuxedos in Peabody, MA.

“I never really heard of it (the Brookhouse Home) before this,” said Gibley. “I believe the show is going to be well attended.”

A rest home for seniors, the Brookhouse Home for Women in Salem has been taking care of women for over 150 years while also providing shelter for those in difficult living circumstances. The organization is teaming up with the Women’s Friend Society—which runs the Emmerton House, a place that provides housing for single women—to host their first joint fashion show on Saturday, March 2, at 6 p.m. at the Nathaniel Silsbee House in Washington Square. The money that is raised will be used to enrich the women’s lives through trips and crafts at the respective homes.

“I have a lot of compassion for them,” said Eleanor Soucy, 77, a board member and former president of Brookhouse. “I didn’t really have patience for the elderly when I first started, but I realized they can be easily forgotten and not appreciated.”

Soucy was a member of the Women’s Friend Society before becoming president of the Brookhouse Home in 2006. Her leadership helped form a partnership between the two organizations as well as bring about major changes to the house.

Established in 1876, the Women’s Friend Society grew as a means of helping educate young women so that they would have the opportunity to better their lives.

When she stepped into her presidency, Soucy said the home was in danger of closing its doors. She and a few other board members brought in women with a specific skill set—lawyers, event planners, etc.—to fill in empty board spots. Afterwards they went to work to try and figure out what was broken.

“I firmly believed that it (the Brookhouse) needed women who were interested,” said Soucy.

The Women’s Friend Society does a lot of outreach at the Brookhouse Home including knitting and art projects with the women who live there. However, this is the first time the two are hosting the fundraising fashion show.

Mimi Ballou, 79, president of the Woman’s Friend Society has helped organize two other fashion shows but she said this one is different.

“It’s kind of an unusual thing,” said Ballou. “It’s hard working together with such different organizations. But we thought it would be a good idea to approach the community to raise funds, so they get two (organizations) for one.”

Much of what is needed to put on the show was made possible through community donations and clothing from boutiques such as Irresistible, J. Mode, and Beautiful Things as well as J. Gibley’s Tuxedos. Gibley said he hopes the event will help get his name out there in time for prom and wedding planners. Soucy and Ballou say they have also raised funds for the event through the sale of advertisements. The show will feature volunteer models as well as a cash bar and raffle.

“Henry’s Market has given us a deal on hors d’ oeuvres,” said Soucy. “We’ve gone to the community and they’ve supported us.”

Published in The Salem News on February 28th, 2013

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