The 28th annual Women Mean Business Luncheon raised $500,000 for the First Step Job Training Program.

Each Spring, the Coalition for the Homeless welcomes leading professionals from across New York City to the Women Mean Business Luncheon to be inspired and learn about our First Step Job Training Program and its amazing graduates. On Thursday, April 18, more than 300 people joined us in The Plaza Ballroom to celebrate the 28th annual event.

This year, the attendees were deeply moved by the personal stories of First Step Graduates Dorian and Sachét, as they were by the profound insights of our Keynote Speaker, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Jennifer Egan. This year’s gathering raised over $500,000 for the First Step Job Training Program, funds that will allow the Coalition to continue our work empowering homeless and low-income women to realize their full potential and secure living-wage employment.

CBS2 News anchor and Emmy-winner Cindy Hsu graciously Emceed the event for the third year in a row, bringing her signature warmth and energy that the prominent “good news” journalist is known for.

Three people standing next to each other in an embrace. A woman, a man and another woman.
From left to right: Keynote speaker and Pulitzer Prize-winner, Jennifer Egan; Coalition for the Homeless Executive Directer, Dave Giffen; Emcee and CBS2 news anchor, Cindy Hsu.

During Jennifer Egan’s keynote address, luncheon guests sat enraptured as she shared the experience of losing her brother to suicide after he spent years battling with addiction and Schizophrenia. Through the heart-breaking retelling, her deep compassion and empathy were evident, and extended to the personal bonds she has created with so many individuals facing homelessness, battling addiction, or seeking to find their path through adversity.

The First Step graduates themselves undoubtedly stole the show. Their personal stories inspired every guest with their determination to move past the heartbreaking obstacles in their lives and take control of their destinies.

Two women standing next to each other smiling at the camera
From left to right: First Step graduate speaker, Sachét Woolfolk-Mitto and First Step graduate video subject, Dorian Stewart.

Dorian recounted her history of teen pregnancy, domestic violence, and navigating the New York City shelter system, before ultimately finding First Step, which allowed her to move into a successful career and a safe and peaceful home in which to raise her children.

The resilience of First Step women was further exemplified by Sachét, who shared her deeply personal struggle growing up in an abusive household and later entering into an abusive relationship that would lead her to one of the lowest points in her life. With the support of First Step, Sachét was able to secure a good job and a real home, and is now focused on “finding Sachét again.”

The Coalition was delighted to honor PURE Insurance for their wonderful support of First Step, and for providing funds to pay for lunch for every single First Step student over the last year.

We would like to thank all the attendees, sponsors, the Coalition’s Board of Directors, the First Step Advisory Board, the First Step staff, and of course all of the graduates for making this event so memorable. This program’s unique combination of hard-skills training, job-readiness training, workshops, and social services support has allowed more than 1,800 women (and counting) to thrive and find a way out of homelessness and poverty. First Step relies on private donations to keep going year after year, and we are deeply grateful for the support of our donors.