Retailers, models team up for needy

MIDDLEBURY — Some of Middlebury’s most prominent citizens will be strolling down the catwalk on Nov. 20 to help raise money for the county’s neediest residents.
That is when Helping Overcome Poverty’s Effects (HOPE) will host its first annual “Model Citizen” fashion show, an event at which 30 area citizens will sport some of the local business community’s finest attire and accessories for an audience at Middlebury’s Town Hall Theater. Members of that audience will be charged an admission fee of $25 for the show, hors d’oeuvres, an ’80s music dance and some undisclosed surprises.
All proceeds will go to HOPE’s nonprofit programs that provide food, clothing and other basic services to low-income residents.
“We are hoping it will become a significant, annual event,” said HOPE Executive Director Jeanne Montross, who noted her organization has seen a dramatic surge in demand for services during the past few years due to the sluggish economy.
“So many people are needing help with food, shelter and heat,” Montross said.
Indeed, a USDA report released this week showed that one in seven Vermont households are experiencing food insecurity, which was defined as running out of food or lacking access to enough food for a healthy life. And the Vermont Agency of Human Services last week reported that more Vermont households than ever before will be receiving home heating assistance this heating season. By Nov. 9, more than 18,700 Vermont households will have received a fuel assistance benefit, compared to 15,900 households at the same time last year.
In an effort to meet that extra need, members of HOPE’s fund-raising committee brainstormed on fresh ideas to bring in new donations. They agreed on “Model Citizen,” a philanthropic fashion show that would involve some local “celebrity” models and area retailers at the Town Hall Theater.
Andrea Solomon, a HOPE board member and event planner for Middlebury College, helped organize Model Citizen with Lisa Wilson, Sue Byers and Carey Bass.
They quickly found support for the idea.
“The community merchants I have communicated with have been unbelievably supportive,” Solomon said, noting that a dozen retailers agreed to loan either fashions or accessories for modeling on Nov. 20. She said participating businesspeople will not only receive the satisfaction of helping raise money for those less fortunate, they’ll also increase the visibility of their products to potentially spur new orders.
Participating retailers in this first edition of “Model Citizen” include Skihaus of Vermont, Forth ’n Goal Sports, Carolyn’s Closet, Mendy’s Clothing, Clay’s, Wild Mountain Thyme, Junebug, Middlebury Mountaineer, Retroworks, Round Robin, Geiger of Austria, Edgewater Gallery and EveryWear for Everybody in Vergennes.
Solomon and her colleagues have recruited a lengthy list of local models to sport the loaned fashions. They include Middlebury artist Kate Gridley, who on Dec. 1 will unveil her portrait of exiting Gov. James Douglas; David A. Donahue, special assistant to Middlebury College President Ronald Liebowitz; Marguerite Senecal, information specialist for the Addison County Chamber of Commerce; and pediatrician Dr. Tawnya Kiernan. There will also be children to model kids’ fashions, according to Solomon.
While modeling for the first time might seem like a daunting proposition to some, Solomon said she got quick nods from most of the people she asked.
“The response has been, ‘It’s such a good cause, we don’t mind at all,’” Solomon said.
Tickets are available on-line at www.townhalltheater.org, by calling 382-9222, and at the door. The doors will open at 7 p.m. and the show will begin at 8 p.m. The ’80s dance party will commence after the fashion show.
Montross is hoping for a good turnout.
“We have got our fingers crossed,” she said.
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].

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