Saturday, November 28 , 2015, 11:21 am | Fair 61º

St. Vincent’s Flaunts Its Flair for Fashion with Fourth Annual Fundraiser

Benefit event draws a crowd as Chico’s models its 2013 winter collection ready-to-wear holiday fashions

Sister Margaret Keaveney, center, president and CEO of St. Vincent’s, with co-chairs Pat Lupo and Claudia Lash at the Fourth Annual Fashion Show and Luncheon.
Sister Margaret Keaveney, center, president and CEO of St. Vincent’s, with co-chairs Pat Lupo and Claudia Lash at the Fourth Annual Fashion Show and Luncheon.  (Melissa Walker / Noozhawk photo)

By Melissa Walker, Noozhawk iSociety Columnist | @NoozhawkSociety |

[Click here for a Noozhawk photo gallery from the event.]

With the holiday season in full swing, more than 100 eager fashion-forward enthusiasts were on hand to view the Chico’s 2013 winter collection ready-to-wear holiday fashions at the St. Vincent’s Fourth Annual Fashion Show and Luncheon benefiting its Early Childhood Education Center at Villa Caridad’s Community Room.

The festive reception area, spacious and brightly lit, quickly filled with guests who leisurely strolled between tables overflowing with holiday-themed gift baskets, jewelry and local artwork up for bid during the silent auction.

Rachelle Cruz also smiled broadly as she made her way around the room offering raffle tickets to visitors for $20, with prizes including a Kindle and two Samsung flat-screen televisions.

By noon, a dozen bright-eyed student volunteers from Bishop Garcia Diego High School served guests a hearty lunch of chicken salad with apples, cranberries and walnuts, and buttery croissants prepared by Ralph Karleskint and Karleskint Catering Company.

During lunch, St. Vincent’s President/CEO Margaret Keaveney addressed the diners and graciously thanked the crowd of onlookers for their continued support, and explained that this year’s proceeds will benefit St. Vincent’s outreach programs services, including Changing Lives, Family Strengthening and Affordable Housing programs.

“Today is a very special day for us. This is our annual fashion show benefiting our multiple children services on campus,” Keaveney said. “St. Vincent’s Childhood Education Center currently serves 57 children, and it is always good to enter the story of St. Vincent’s through children, because on Jan. 5, 2013, we will be serving the people of Santa Barbara for 155 years.”

As a special holiday treat, children from the St. Vincent’s Early Childhood Education Center performed an array of heartwarming holiday carols that filled the room with cheer.

The room was abuzz in excitement by the time the fashion show began, and the stylish show was co-chaired and hosted by Claudia Lash and Pat Lupo with mistress of ceremonies Elaine Immel.

Immel, Chico’s store manager at Paseo Nuevo on State Street, highlighted the latest trends that featured bold metallic and colorful assemblages inspired by the approaching holiday season.

Models strolled the aisles of the room wearing bright red and Victorian purple silk tanks, edgy faux fur jackets, sequined tank tops, dust rose beaded tops with matching slim stretch trousers, shimmering gold cable cardigans and flattering checkered black, red and white mix sweater coats paired with flirty drape sweaters and accessorized with colorful glass coil bracelets, draped necklaces and shimmering glass drop earrings highlighted the bright, ornate and festive attire.

Model Patricia Elmes in the Chico’s ready-to-wear collection. (Melissa Walker / Noozhawk photo)
Model Patricia Elmes in the Chico’s ready-to-wear collection. (Melissa Walker / Noozhawk photo)

Rooted in the social teachings of the Catholic Church and operated by the Daughters of the Charity of St. Vincent de Paul, St. Vincent’s has a rich and evolving history with the community and is dedicated to strengthening low-income families and seniors by providing affordable housing, early childhood education and enrichment opportunities for people in need.

“We are the longest operating nonprofit in Santa Barbara,” Keaveney said. “We were asked to come and establish an orphanage and an English speaking school, and we did that, and we have been serving the children for the last 155 years.”

Established in 1858 by the Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul, St. Vincent’s opened the first English-speaking school and orphanage in Santa Barbara.

Since the inception of the Roman Catholic facility, St. Vincent’s has undergone numerous transitions over the years, including construction of the St. Vincent’s Day Nursery, one of the first child-care programs in California operating during World War II until the late 1970s.

The orphanage closed in 1936 and gave way to a new school for developmentally disabled children. For decades the facility provided residential and educational assistance to thousands of disadvantaged children in Santa Barbara County until its closure in 1995.

St. Vincent’s established two new programs during the latter half of the 1990s. PATHS has been renamed the St. Vincent’s Family Strengthening Program, a residential communal living program made up of five cottages that accommodate up to six families for single mothers with limited income and their children. Clients enrolled in the monthly program must commit to making changes that will lead to independence and self-sufficiency and are expected to actively seek employment and education.

The St. Vincent’s Early Childhood Education Center, formally known as Casa Alegria Children’s Center, is a licensed Catholic preschool that accommodates children of all faiths and provides quality child care for infants, toddlers and preschoolers.

Cognitive learning is the cornerstone of early childhood development, and the low ratio of children to teachers ensures the individual need of each student within a group setting.

The center’s specialized curriculum promotes the social, emotional, creative and spiritual growth of each child through the influx of self-initiated activity with concrete objects and social interaction with peers that embodies self-confidence and learning to become independent thinkers.

The philosophy at St. Vincent’s is simple: The development a child undergoes early in life contributes to the level of success that the child will experience later in life.

“We are founded through the Daughters of Charity, and we are a self-service ministry,” said Bonnie Patton, director of the St. Vincent’s Early Childhood Education Center. “We strive to provide services for the parents and to give the very best care we can give to the children. So when they enter in to kindergarten they are above what they should be. It’s truly dedicated to our Lord, and we teach about how God loves them.”

The center works with all kinds of families from all areas and education brackets, but overall there are many children enrolled in the school who are from very low-income families.

St. Vincent’s continues to reach out to the community offering an array of services and programs at the 19-acre site at 4200 Calle Real. The unique residential park features an array of lush community gardens, an indoor pool, modern play areas, basketball courts and a baseball diamond for visitors and residents to enjoy.

“We are changing lives through the programs we have established in collaboration with our dedicated Board of Directors, talented St. Vincent’s team, and generous community partners and donors,” Keaveney said. “We are strengthening families, instilling self-worth in mothers, children and seniors, and providing opportunities for every person to use their talents and gifts toward bettering themselves and also helping others.”

Noozhawk iSociety columnist Melissa Walker can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkSociety, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Become a fan of Noozhawk on Facebook.

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