On Thursday, April 20, Goodwill Industries held its biannual Little Black Dress Fashion Show and Boutique. Little Black Dress is always fantastic, but this year, the beloved event was bigger and better than ever. Over 400 local sponsors, partners, and loyal Goodwill shoppers gathered at Four Winds Casinos’ brand-new Ribbon Town Conference and Event Center in South Bend to take part in the unforgettable signature event.
“We’ve taken Little Black Dress to the next level,” said Debie Coble, president and CEO of Goodwill Industries of Michiana.
Each year, Goodwill holds a Little Black Dress event in the spring and fall to raise awareness for its programs and show off some of the amazing fashion hiding in its stores. Throughout the year, Goodwill saves some of its best items including everything from jewelry to dresses to shoes. Then, Goodwill sets up a cute little boutique at the event for people to peruse and see for themselves just how fantastic Goodwill is—not to mention that almost everything is half off!
“There’s so much excitement. When you walk in here, you can feel the energy. People are excited, they’re supportive, and I can already tell you there’s going to be some tears. There are just so many emotions wrapped all into one,” said Coble.
As if that weren’t enough, at the height of the evening, models take to the stage decked out in all things Goodwill and put on a delightful fashion show to demonstrate how shopping at Goodwill can cover all of your clothing needs as well as support a great cause. Kerie Graham, the stylist mastermind behind the night’s fashion show, was excited to be involved in something so meaningful.
“This community needs Goodwill. It’s needed to help give jobs back to the people who really need them. In a community, growth and sustainability are key, and Goodwill is a huge part of making those things happen,” said Graham.
In between runway sessions, Goodwill shows special clips and interviews to tell people about its mission and raise awareness for all of its life-changing programs. Some of these programs include Goodwill Excel Centers, centers that help adults earn their high school diplomas and get some college credits, and Nurse-Family Partnership, a program that pairs first-time mothers with a nurse to help them get through those first couple of challenging years.
A clip was additionally shown to highlight the opening of the South Bend Bendix Campus that encompasses The Academy, Excel Center and E-Commerce. The Academy has just finished its first construction classes and will be hosting a grand opening later this spring. The Academy is free certification/training in skilled trades.
“While we have that captive audience, we want to tell them about our mission and what really goes on at Goodwill. There are so many people who don’t know about all of the stuff that we do—they think we just run some neat thrift stores. We do run some great stores, but all that revenue goes toward our mission, and that’s the goal: to share that mission,” said Vice President of Donated Goods and Retail at Goodwill Industries of Michiana Mark Ziegert.
To help demonstrate all the good work that Goodwill does, Goodwill Industries of Michiana shared the story of Kelsey Fleming, a young woman recovering from a heroin addiction thanks to the support and programs offered by Goodwill. As Kelsey shared her story and thanked Goodwill for helping her change her life, the audience couldn’t help but stand up and cheer.
Not only did the event raise more awareness for Goodwill’s mission, but all the money raised from the boutique will go straight back to the Goodwill programs that have helped so many people like Kelsey.
“All of this is going straight back toward the incredible work that we get to do every day: helping people change their lives. Whether it’s somebody who’s down on their luck, someone with a disability, somebody coming out of the prison system, or even just a first-time mom, we help them get through that journey, and all of tonight’s support will go back to our special programs,” said Coble.
Ultimately, there wasn’t a doubt in anyone’s mind that the event was a huge success. Little Black Dress was also the first event to be hosted in the Four Winds Ribbon Town Event Center. The event center was the perfect space to hold such a meaningful event, and guests had a blast jumping from room to room to shop as if they were in a miniature outlet mall.
Goodwill Industries of Michiana is also grateful to all of its partners and sponsors who helped make this incredible night possible. A difference can only be made in our communities when people work together, and Little Black Dress was a wonderful example.
Everyone left the event with smiles on their faces, warmth in their hearts, and eagerness for all the Little Black Dress events to come.
To learn more about Goodwill Industries of Michiana and its mission to strengthen our communities, visit https://www.goodwill-ni.org/.