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The LaVelle & Co. mentoring group keeps its membership tight and its meetings private. However, on Monday, the group’s founder, LaVelle Olexa, and a bevy of young ladies decided to give back by staging its first fund-raiser, a benefit for the New York Public Schools Summer Arts Program.

“These are extraordinarily well-educated, bright interesting women who can make a difference going forward. They’re learning about the importance of building relationships and joining forces for good causes,” Olexa said at the event, held at Marlborough Gallery Chelsea.

This story first appeared in the November 15, 2010 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

“LaVelle & Co. is all about empowering women, but let me tell you, guys, you wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for women,” said Ben Vereen, whose daughter, Kabara, is a member of LaVelle & Co. Turning serious, Vereen said supporting education was critical. “It’s all about our children. Kids today are in trouble, especially those in the arts.”

About 300 people attended, including Marianne Cassini, Jane Elfers, Paul Auersperg of Fortune Footwear, Marsha Levine, John Anthony, R.J. Graziano, Kay Unger, Yeohlee Teng, Paula Shapiro of Huntress, and Ambassador of Romania Simona Miculescu. But the LaVelle & Co. members stood out among the crowd, manning the silent auction tables and modeling much of the merchandise donated for the bidding. “There’s a great feeling of inspiration at the meetings,” observed Abigail Rogado. Two of the organization’s guest speakers, Stephanie George and Francine LeFrak, she said, are “very passionate about their careers and very motivational without being preachy.”

“I could be sitting next to someone in the arts or media or retail and you really can see the cross-industry synergies,” said Michelle Dillard. “There is definitely a feeling of camaraderie and sharing experiences,” said Lacey Drucker. “Ann Moore was one of my favorite speakers. She was so inspiring. She said it was all about working real hard on the job, and no e-mailing after work.”

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