2009 April 2

Called to Action

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Bob Harrison and Mayor Michael Bloomberg Bob Harrison and Mayor Michael Bloomberg
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(NEW YORK) While celebrities and other glossies trotted downtown to raise their glasses to the cause of fast fashion, New York's finest philanthropists found themselves in the Grand Ballroom of the Plaza Hotel to raise funds for the Henry Street Settlement.

"We talk about Wall Street and Main Street, but maybe we should talk a little more about Henry Street," said Mayor Michael Bloomberg as guests sat down to a goat cheese and heirloom tomato salad. "I don't know of any organization in this city that does all these things, does them so well, and has been doing them for such a long time. Were not going to walk away from our neediest or the city [itself]--we're going to work our hardest to make sure everyone has a meal in their stomach and a roof over their head. Make no mistake about it--were not going back to the dark old days!"

Gala co-chairs John Demsey, Jill Fairchild, Eva Jeanbart-Lorenzotti, Kalliope KarellaAngela Mariani and Pilar Crespi Robert coaxed the likes of Christine and Stephen Schwarzman, Gillian and Sylvester MiniterMuffie Potter Aston, Debbie Bancroft and Jamee and Peter Gregory to the event, which honored filmmaker and philanthropist Tatiana von Furstenberg. "She takes right after her mom--glamorous, smart and philanthropic," said Bloomberg of the first Lower East Side resident to receive the honor. "So many times I've sat in park next to Henry Street Settlement to experience daily life," von Furstenberg explained. "Isolation is the opposite [impulse of this organization]. I derive love, goodwill, admiration and deep respect to the people who are dedicated to your program."

Founded by the legendary Lillian Wald in 1893, the Henry Street Settlement serves over 60,000 New Yorkers each year. The organization operates a multidisciplinary arts center, a shelter and supportive services, behavioral and health services, senior services, home care services, a workforce development center, day care centers, and after school and summer programs for neighborhood youth. "The number of poor and disenfranchised are growing while resources are decreasing," said executive director Verona Middleton-Jeter. "And we have best and most dedicated staff in country to help us with the fight."

The Derrick Waters, a benefactor of the organization's workforce development center, was called to the podium. "Today, I have a secure job with stability and growth," he said. "You're like my family." Mariani discreetly wiped away a tear. "I've been working with him on his speech for the last three days," she later explained, her eyes still glistening. "And what you just heard wasn't even half of his story. Now he has a job, a livelihood, a future full of possibility..." She paused, then laughed: "And he's even media-trained!"

New Dimension co-chairs Anna Pinhero and Lesley Shulhof brought out the young folks. Bonnie Morrison and Peter Davis discussed rivaling television moments from the previous evening. "Did you even see The Biggest Loser?" Morrison asked. "But what about the Kelly and Bethenny catfight on The Real Housewives!?" Davis exclaimed. Zani Gugelmann had just returned from a visit to her father's home outside of Milan. "After all the insanity of fashion week, a vacation is necessary!" she said.

And of course, the fashion set couldn't keep themselves away. Ralph Rucci and Tara Subkoff hit up the dance floor, while Cindi Leive canoodled with Jason Wu. "I was just in London last week!" the Presidential designer exclaimed of the happy fact that Michelle Obama has sported his designs for a record three days straight during her trip to the U.K.. "It's so funny how things just happen."

Meanwhile, the ever-congenial Robert Burke talked shop with Anne Fahey...until Christie's vice president and events director Lydia Fenet took to the podium. "Attention!" she said, pounding a gavel that appeared mysteriously (not unlike a deus ex machina). "We only have two lots, people, and I need your support. It's hard to see over these cherry blossom arrangement, but rest assured, we are watching you!" The audience was transfixed, especially when two dudes duked it out over an unrestricted week-long getaway at a private villa in Turks & Caicos--private jet service included. The $40,000 winning bid was remarkably easy to achieve. About 5 other guests found themselves raising paddles for $10,000 bids to build a day-care center. "Hey, the Henry Street Settlement is just one of those really great charities," shrugged Sylvester Miniter. "They put roofs over heads. Even in this economy, it's hard not to give."

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