Women Mean Business Luncheon Raises $175,000 for First Step

By Maria Fregoso

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More than 350 guests joined us at the 17th Annual Women Mean Business Luncheon at The Pierre Hotel on April 12, 2011. The luncheon was emceed by comedian and former social worker, Christine O’Leary, whose poignant and heartwarming anecdotes were the perfect compliment to this year’s program. Draftfcb CEO and Coalition board member, Laurence Boschetto, inspired the audience with his keynote remarks on the importance of the Coalition’s work and community involvement in these times of massive budget cuts. During his speech, he personally pledged $100,000 in memory of John Sullivan and encouraged all of the attendees to “add a zero” to their donations that afternoon.

Latoya Sykes, First Step class 99, was featured in a brief video that told her courageous story of overcoming seemingly insurmountable obstacles with the help of First Step. First Step’s comprehensive structure, which includes both job training and social services for students and graduates, helped Latoya secure a job with Black Veterans for Social Justice, where she has become an invaluable part of their team, in addition to finding permanent housing for herself and her daughter.

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This year’s graduate speaker, Adriana Rivera (from First Step class 46) truly inspired the audience as she outlined the ways in which First Step helped her feel empowered and motivated again after becoming a displaced worker on 9/11. She underscored the importance of mentor and peer support, but she also urged us to look within ourselves in the face of adversity because as she explained, “We are all superwomen!”

This year, the Coalition was proud to honor Bumble and bumble with our Corporate Partnership Award and Neuman’s catering with our Volunteer Service Award. First Step graduate Maureen Butler, who went on to work at Bumble and bumble had the opportunity to share her experiences and to present Peter Lichtenthal, President of Bumble and bumble, with their award. The Volunteer Service Award was presented by another First Step graduate and current member of the Neuman’s team, Roxanne Lowe. As an aspiring baker and caterer she explained, it was “a dream come true” to have the chance to work at Neuman’s and to be able to present Paul Neuman with this award.

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Our sincerest thanks goes to all the First Step graduates who attended that afternoon as well as our supporters who make all we do possible. The event was a tremendous success, raising over $175,000 which will go towards ensuring the continued success of the First Step Job Training Program and the hundreds of homeless and low-income women it serves each year.

Published in Safety Net, Spring/Summer 2011