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12th annual Gala honors formerly homeless women

Happy in a new evening gown.

If you’re going to a fancy gala, you must wear something fancy, right? Like a gown, purse, jewelry, shoes and the right under garments and make-up.

What if you don’t have enough money to buy all of that?

Today, formerly homeless women browsed through racks of hundreds of donated colorful ball gowns in preparation for Women’s Empowerment’s Gala upcoming 12th Annual Celebration of Independence Gala, Oct. 3.

Accessorizing help.

"This is the first gala I’ve gone to," Jessica Bowell said. "Never had anything to dress up for – never graduated – but this was my first graduation. It’s kind of exciting to put on a dress."

She volunteers as a receptionist at Women’s Empowerment and says she’s just trying to find a job.

"It’s a chance for donors and volunteers to come and celebrate the accomplishments of the women in our program who are no longer homeless," Kate Townsend, Fund Developer for Women’s Empowerment, said. "100 women who graduated from our program, Women’s Empowerment, will also attend wearing ballgowns."

"A lot of women in our program were unable to have weddings and haven’t attended nice, classy dinners,"   Townsend said. "Our program is based on making women feel beautiful on the inside. This night is a chance for them to feel beautiful from the outside, wearing fancy jewelry, fancy necklaces and evening gowns. It’s a chance for them to feel as beautiful on the outside as they do on the inside."

"One opportunity for community members who can’t attend the event is to sponsor a ticket for a graduate to attend," Townsend explained. "So 100 women who graduated from our program attend the dinner and if community members would like to purchase and sponsor their ticket, it’s a really great way to support the program and support the ability for these women to come and enjoy the evening with donors, volunteers and their fellow graduates."

"People can go to our website ,go to the tickets page and there’s a chance to sponsor a graduate." Townsend explained.

According to a press release "Women’s Empowerment offers the only comprehensive job-readiness program in the Sacramento area designed specifically for women who are homeless and their children. The 2009 Nonprofit of the Year has graduated 1,064 homeless women and their 2,092 children. Last year, 89 percent of graduates found homes and 78 percent found jobs or enrolled in school or training. The program combines self-esteem courses, job training, health classes and support services to help homeless women across diverse ages, races and cultures."

"It’s a powerful experience to witness women once homeless arrive at this event dressed to the nines," said Lisa Culp, executive director. "This event sells out every year, so we are excited to be expanding into a larger facility that allows more people in our community to experience this incredible celebration of women breaking the cycle of homelessness for their families. Those who can’t attend  can sponsor one of our graduates to have a night where she will shine and be celebrated for her accomplishments."

Here are pictures of the women choosing their gowns, shoes and other accessories that were donated:

Some of the many shoes on hand.
Happy with her choice.
Many purses to choose from.
Lots of necklaces, earrings, bracelets.
Trying some earrings.
Holding it in front to see if it’s a possibility.
Wardrobe complete.
Editor’s note: The “News Digest” goes out every Tuesday morning and highlights our best stories, photos and videos from the week prior. Sign me up.

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