Greenville fashion show raising money for needy children


By Mike Taylor • Last Updated 10:47 am on Monday, May 07, 2012

Fashion mavens from throughout the area will converge to see first-hand some of the season’s hottest looks, as well as to raise a little money for a very worthy cause at 7 p.m. Wednesday at the First United Methodist Church in Greenville.

The free event also features a dessert reception following the show.

The show is being hosted by the United Methodist Women and Fashion Bug, with proceeds going to Greenville Schools’ Opportunity for Success Fund. The fund supports area children experiencing various financial difficulties, according to event organizer Elaine Pendrick.

“Women of all ages and sizes will be modeling this season’s latest fashions,” Pendrick says. “We have about 40 models from our church, all different ages. The show itself is put on by Fashion Bug.”

A freewill offering goes toward the homeless children in the area through the Opportunity for Success Fund.

“They try to help kids in any way they may need help, in a non-embarrassing way,” Pendrick said.  “It could be money for a dental appointment or something like that. They handle things quietly. It’s a fabulous program and it’s all funded through donations.”

This is the first time the church women have put on a fashion show of this kind, though they typically host several fundraisers each year. A recent two-day rummage sale at the church saw great success pulling in funds for both the church and various community projects.

“We try to put the money toward needs in the immediate area,” Pendrick says. “Our main goal is to help people while still making some money for our church. We are trying to find our focus. Because of the economy in our community our group is trying to do some things that are cost effective but still raise some money for a good cause.”

Pendrick isn’t sure exactly how much money the fashion show will bring in but hopes the event will be enjoyable both for the models and those in attendance.

“We’re hoping for at least 100, but if we have to scurry down to Meijer to buy more desserts, that would please me,” she said.

Linda Van Houten, who administers the Opportunity for Success Fund, says the program has never been more important to the community. In recent years, the number of children and families in need has increased exponentially, leaving many area children in dire circumstances.

The program was established years ago and was once funded primarily through the contributions of private citizens. A grant from the Greenville Area Community Foundation covers most of the program’s expenses now, however, in recent years, that grant money has not been nearly enough to cover existing needs, which focus primarily on students’ medical and dental costs, as well as other expenses such as food and clothing.

“We’re getting kids in the office who need a doctor but have no insurance,” Van Houten said. “We’re trying to help find a way for them to meet that need. But we’re also working with homeless kids who need food and well as medical attention. There’s just not enough to cover all the expenses.”

The program, Van Houten said, is currently assisting as many as 170 homeless children from the Greenville area, kids who are living with a friend or relative, in a motel room or simply drifting from place to place.
“There has been a tremendous increase in this in the past six years,” she says. “Last year, we spent about $7,000 from the fund to help support these kids.”
The fund also helps students obtain items such as school supplies, glasses and transportation to and from school. Organizations like the Methodist Church are instrumental in keeping the program financially viable, according to Van Houten. The church regularly donates food items to the program, which then distributes it to children who otherwise might not have anything to eat.

“A lot of people don’t realize this is happening all around us. But it is,” Van Houten said. “Our free and reduced lunch program has almost doubled in the past six years. Some schools are running as high as 70 percent (participation). This is far more significant an issue than most people realize.”

For information on how to contribute funds or food items to the program, contact Van Houten at (616) 754-3686.

The First United Methodist Church is at 204 W. Cass St. in Greenville.

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