The Guardian ad Litem Foundation, 20th Judicial Circuit, raised $17,125 at Fashion to a Tea, a luncheon and fashion show featuring community leaders as models.

Fashion to a Tea, held Oct. 27 at Charlotte Harbor Yacht Club, included an elegant high tea luncheon, silent auction, fun surprises and a spirited fashion show. Models showcased chic, trendy styles for women of all ages that were provided by Anthony’s Ladies Apparel in Punta Gorda.

Fashion to a Tea attracted 201 supporters and sold out weeks in advance. It was the foundation’s first in-person fundraising event since the pandemic began and a positive sign heading into Southwest Florida’s philanthropic season.

“It was great to be back together today. It was 728 days since we were last together for this event, and we certainly missed each other,” said Jessica Stanfield, the foundation’s executive director. “To feel the excitement, to be able to come back together to give those high fives and hugs, and do it all for a great cause… We couldn’t ask for anything more.”

Proceeds from Fashion to a Tea provide financial assistance to help meet a child’s basic and developmental needs, including the Children’s Needs Program that provides “extras” like birthday parties, tutoring, summer camp programs, movie tickets and registration fees for clubs and sports. The foundation, which serves children in Collier, Lee, Charlotte, Hendry and Glades counties, also recruits and trains volunteer child advocates that represent children as the navigate the judicial, education and child welfare systems.

“We cannot function on our own,” said Holly Rodriguez, circuit director for Guardian ad Litem in Southwest Florida. “The foundation has a very important role in allowing us to bring normalcy to the children that have been abused, abandoned or neglected that are residing in foster care.”

Eight fashion models, called “leading ladies” at the show, represented local businesses and nonprofit organizations, including: Alexia Martin, WhitCo Insurance; Karen McElhaney, Center for Abuse and Rape Emergencies; Debra Griffith, Beyond Ourselves; Beverly Hendrickson, Punta Gorda Women’s Club; Christine Carey, Valerie’s House of Charlotte/Sarasota Counties; Nancy Johnson, Team Punta Gorda; Jacqueline Benjamin, Charlotte State Bank & Trust; and Jennifer Taberski, RE/MAX Taberski Team.

“The ultimate goal of this event is to raise money and to raise awareness about the Guardian ad Litem program,” said Barbara Berman, a volunteer child advocate who co-chaired Fashion to a Tea with Suzanne McCormick. “We are seeking people not only to financially contribute to our organization, but to learn about it and think about ways in which they might want to get involved either as a Guardian ad Litem volunteer, a member of the board or just to become a contributing member to the cause.”

Fashion to a Tea’s generous sponsors included First Presbyterian Church of Port Charlotte, Barbara Berman, Mediation Services of SW Florida – Bruce Greenberg, Foundation Board Chair, Gary Lederer, Foundation Board Treasurer, Kappa Alpha Theta, J Gregory Group, WhitCo Insurance, Bohall’s Total Comfort, Joanne Lancaster, Sylvia Ore, Carl Wolaver and Nancy Lambert.

For more information, please visit VoicesForKids.org.

About Guardian ad Litem Foundation

Guardian ad Litem Foundation, 20th Judicial Circuit, was established in 1984 and is a registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that supports Guardian ad Litem programs in Lee, Collier, Charlotte, Hendry and Glades counties. The Foundation, a United Way Partner Agency, has a mission of ensuring that every abused, neglected or abandoned youth in Southwest Florida has a voice as they navigate the judicial, education and child welfare system. The Foundation raises funds that help meet a child’s health, educational and social needs, as well as provides support for highly trained volunteer advocates who represent the best interests of a child until a safe, permanent placement is established. For additional information, visit VoicesForKids.org or call 239-533-1435.