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NEW YORK — It proved to be a record-breaker, both in attendance and donations. The Women in Need charity fund-raiser Tuesday night at The Pierre drew more than 750 people and raised in excess of $1.5 million.

“It’s all because of Steve,” said Charlotte Prince, chair of the board of WIN. She was referring to Stephen I. Sadove, chairman and chief executive officer of Saks Inc. and the evening’s honoree.

Another $150,000 was raised during dinner, where helium-filled balloons flagged each $100 donation. But with all the generosity, the 500 balloons ran out in 10 minutes, leaving some guests without.

Sadove himself put in $25,000 for Camp WIN, a day camp for homeless children. He received the organization’s Commit to WIN award, and a community room at the Jennie A. Clarke shelter in Manhattan was named in his honor. “Steve’s obvious commitment to giving back is infectious,” said Bryan Bradley, one of several designers attending.

Bradley, Charles Nolan and Cynthia Steffe were at a table with Richard Baker, president and ceo of NRDC Equity Partners, owner of Lord & Taylor, which is building a pool of design talent. Other designers present were Peter Som, Mark Badgley and James Mischka, Josie Natori, Max Wilson of Dana Buchman and George Sharp of Ellen Tracy. Editors turned out, as well, including Cindi Leive of Glamour, Charla Lawhon of In Style, Martha Nelson of People Group and Kate Betts of Time.

“I’m overwhelmed,” Sadove said. “I’ve never seen such an impressive turnout. I hope what we’ve done tonight is going to get a heck of a lot of kids to camp.”

“There are those who stop at a traffic accident and those who drive by. I know Steve has spent a lot of time on the side of the road,” said actress Marlo Thomas, who introduced Sadove and cited his support for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, which she champions.

In a moving testimonial, Loretta Gaillard spoke of her substance abuse. The turning point came when she was 47: Her brother found a crack pipe and showed it to her daughter. “I was embarrassed. I felt shame and a sense a guilt. I saw the pain in her eyes and her confusion.”

This story first appeared in the April 19, 2007 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

Soon after, Gaillard was placed in a WIN shelter and stayed 15 months in a recovery program. “I’m happy to be able to be standing here at age 50 — and women don’t usually say their age — telling you that I live in a two-bedroom apartment with my daughter. I’m a counselor for people getting tested for HIV and I’m working to get certification as a substance abuse counselor. I have been clean and sober now for two-and-a-half years. I’m a happy, healthy, independent lady and my daughter has a role model — me. I owe this to WIN.”

The organization provides homeless families with shelter, assistance in finding permanent housing, job training and placement, day care and after-school programs, counseling in cases of domestic violence and treatment for alcohol and substance abuse. Saks associates have volunteered at WIN shelters, helping with the day care program, holiday decorations and parties, and providing career training and counseling.

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