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“An Evening of Friends, Fun & Fashion”

Supporting a good cause…remembering a good friend

By Stacey Dresner

WEST HARTFORD – Ilene Schloss was always so proud of the models taking part in the annual fashion show benefitting the Mandell JCC’s Adult Special Needs program.

Many of the models in the show are participants in the special needs program.

“It makes them feel like rock stars,” says Elana MacGilpin, director of adult special needs programming at the JCC in West Hartford. “It’s a really special event. They go to stores to get fitted for their clothes, and then that night they come and get dressed and get their make-up and hair done. It really gives them a chance to shine, which is wonderful to see.”

Schloss, who worked in members services at the JCC and who served as its coordinator of adult special needs programming, founded the fashion show many years ago.

“This was something that she really poured her heart and soul into,” MacGilpin says.

This year the fashion show will held in memory of Schloss, who died at the age of 78 last August after a brief illness.

“An Evening of Friends, Fun & Fashion” will be held at the JCC on Wednesday, April 25 at 7 p.m.

The event, emceed by Channel 3 newscaster Kara Sundlun, will include a dessert reception sponsored by the Colby/Schloss family and a teacup auction.

A few days before the fashion show each year, a table is set up near the JCC’s front desk with items donated to the teacup auction from local stores, restaurants and other businesses, giving the community a chance to buy tickets and support the special needs program that Schloss loved so much.

“Ilene called the adults in the special needs program ‘her kids,’” says Beth Papermaster, chair of the fashion show. “She really felt like she was a mother to all of them. That love came through when you would see her interacting with them. She was very protective and was always concerned about making them feel valued, and respected, and loved.”

The highlight of the evening is watching the models – who will include JCL staffers and a JCC board member – wearing fashions from BK & Co. and J.T. Ghamo Tuxedos sashay down the red carpet.

“The models are really what make the event special,” Papermaster says. “Seeing the pleasure and the pride of the models is just so inspiring.”

Each year the fashion show raises between $9,000 and $12,000 for the JCC’s Adult Special Needs program, which also receives funding from the Jewish Federation of Greater Hartford.

The money raised helps to provide social and recreational programming for adults with special needs and intellectual disabilities. Programs run twice a month on Sundays and include activities like bowling, apple-picking, or bingo. The group recently enjoyed a Zumba party, a make-your-own-sundaes party, and in April will work out at a special event in the JCC’s gym. In addition, the JCC offers different classes throughout the week, like dance, exercise and pottery classes.

The group sometimes partners with the Jewish Association for Community Living (JCL), which runs group homes and supported living for adults with special needs.

MacGilpin says that the Adult Special Needs program is open to anybody aged 18 and up in the greater Hartford community. Participants do not have to be JCC members; they pay as they go for each event.

“It’s extremely fun and it’s extremely social. It’s really just a time to have fun and give the participants and the community a time to come together,” MacGilpin explains. “We feel very grateful to have this program at the JCC.”

MacGilpin added that there are plans to start a new program specifically for young adults with special needs ages 18 to 30. The inclusive program will connect participants with members of the Jewish Federation’s Young Leadership Divison (YAD).

Money raised at the fashion show goes directly back into the program, MacGilpin says.

“It supports the programming and pays for staff and instructors. And it subsidizes the programs so that the participants are only paying a minimal fee.”

Beth Papermaster says that Ilene would be pleased to be honored at the fashion show, which was such an important occasion for her each year.

“She would be happy that it calls attention to the programs that she loved so much, but she was not a person who wanted to be in the center of attention,” Papermaster said. “She would be very happy that she is ‘sharing the stage’ with her kids – these people that she loved so much. I know it’s going to be hard for the people who have modeled in the past to be doing this without Ilene because she was always there to give them encouragement. She is definitely going to be missed.”

CAP: Ilene Schloss z”l (left) at last year’s fashion show benefitting the JCC’s adult special needs program, with Emcee Kara Sundlun (center), and Beth Papermaster, chair.

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