From Alleyways to Runways

Over 250 women from the community attended the fashion show and cheered wildly for each woman as she walked the runway.
The women at Jacksonville’s City Rescue Mission participated in a fashion show to help raise funds for their recovery program.

“Lord knows I was once walkin’ on the streets jus’ a beggin’….Every day. Now tonight…I get the chance to walk on up there in front a everybody…jus’ a braggin’ on how God is merciful, mighty, an’ done all this restoration in my life.” DeMorris White, 41, of the CRM Lifebuilders program.

A blouse from Ralph Lauren is just one of the high end garments that were on the racks in the boutique.

New life (which just so happens to be the name of the overnight housing building at the CRM) was the theme of the ‘Metamorphasis Fashion Show’ that took place on Thursday, April 24, 2014 at 7 o’clock PM.
Along with dozens of volunteers, the ladies of the Lifebuilders recovery program have been preparing for months for this annual event that has taken place since 2009.

‘The Accessory Room’ in the boutique was almost emptied by the end of the night.

Susan Jordan, volunteer director of the fashion show, said “We’ve worked so hard to make this night special for these ladies. They get to hand pick their outfits from our CRM donation Thrift Store (located on Normandy and Lane Avenue) and then hair and make up artists from around town donate their time and skills to get them runway-ready.”

Rebecca Stratton, 27, in the evening wear portion of the fashion show. Rebecca is a fan of high heels and red lipstick.

The night began at 6 o’clock with the opening of the ‘Metamorphasis Boutique’-a special selection of high end garments collected out of the donations including clothing from Anne Taylor, Calvin Klein, Anthropologie, and many others. Attendees of the fashion show paid $15 and were allowed to shop and purchase items from the boutique. The CRM provided refreshments and the Jacksonville Symphony Chamber Trio provided beautiful music throughout the night. All those in attendance were entered into raffles to win gifts and prizes from sponsors throughout the show.

The Jacksonville Symphony Chamber Trio volunteered their services to the event.

After an hour of lively shopping and talking, everyone moved to the CRM Chapel which was decorated with butterflies for the fashion show.
The show began with the reading of this bible verse from Psalm 139:14, “I will praise you for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Your works are wonderful, I know that full well.”

Ellen Wallace, 46, comes to the fashion show each year. “I love these women and I love the cause.”

The Mistress of Ceremony was Mrs. Cynthia Montello of the Montello Marketing Agency. Montello introduced the 3 different categories as Casual, Professional, and Evening.

Joanna Horton and Kelsey Richardson helped set up the boutique; both girls are fashion merchandising students from the University of Florida.

There were 22 ladies who modeled in the show and the event lasted until 9 PM.
Between the 3 categories, some testimonies from some of the women were shared. These stories left the entire audience in tears.
The MC announced that each outfit the ladies were wearing where available for attendees to purchase for the ladies to own for only $25. She included that each year, every single outfit is purchased for the ladies.
Over 250 people attended the event, and all of the money from the boutique and from donations went to help the women in the program with living and education expenses.

Photographers from around the community were invited to come and photograph the event to make it more like a real ‘fashion week’ event.

One special part of the night was the ‘Secret Encourager Love Notes’ reveal. For the past few months while preparing for the show, each woman in the recovery program was assigned a secret encourager from the community who would deliver her ‘love notes’ of prayer and gifts of encouragement.
On the night of the fashion show each woman was finally introduced to her ‘Secret Encourager’. Secret encouragers were volunteers of 1 person or 1 group and sometimes even 1 family.
Lily Boston, 35, and her 3 younger daughters (Anna-10, Phoebe-8, and Faith-6) were secretly encouraging recovery student DeMorris White.
“I wanted to teach my girls at a young age that everyone is important and God wants us to love others. They have helped me write love notes to Miss DeMorris and together we have prayed for her every day since December.”
After the final bow from all the ladies in the show, Lily and her 3 girls raced to exchange long tearful hugs with White who was still in her sparkling evening gown and pearls. The girls told White that she was “so beautiful” and “an awesome model.” White said that the girls reminded her of her 3 daughters, who she lost because of her drug addiction in 2013.
“Everything good I have is from The Lord and I want to treasure his gifts and use them the way He wants me to. My daughters, my gifts, will be with me again one day when I’m ready to be a mother who takes care of them and helps them to see that they are God’s beautiful creations.”

Each woman in the Lifebuilders program at the city rescue Mission has a heart breaking story of how addiction and abuse left them abandoned.
At one point they each made the decision to seek help from the program that offers housing, food, counseling, education, and so much more.
The Lifebuilders program is unique in that it has a 72% success rate amongst graduates (they remain sober after completing the program) as compared to the nationwide average of 12%.

The final bow at the fashion show.

Counselors and CRM employees attribute this success to implementing changes in the lives of the students, not just changes in their habits. They believe that reminding students of their worth and the purpose that God has made them for is what opens their eyes to their need for change.

Angela Cook, Learning Center Coordinator at the mission fully believes in their deep approach to recovery. “When you get to the root of the problem, it is easier to pull it out and get rid of it. But then you’ve got to fallow up the ground and fertilize it and plant new seeds of hope. After you water them with relationships and purpose, be careful that those problems will try to sneak back into the soil-that’s your soul. The best part is when you get to watch as something truly beautiful grows-new life and a new view of the world.”

Amy Pittman, DeMorris White, & Carol Cooley

City Rescue Mission is a faith based non-profit organization that exists to point those in need in the right direction. If you or anyone you know is homeless, suffering from drug addiction or substance abuse, or in need of a mentoring program, call 904-387-HELP or visit the CRM Facebook for more information.

-Jacksonville Amy

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