By  on December 23, 2008

Bernard Madoff’s alleged $50 billion Ponzi scheme has taken another casualty: Dress for Success.

Although the nonprofit organization that gives interview suits to low-income women was not directly involved with Madoff, one of its primary benefactors, The Picower Foundation, will close immediately because almost all of its $552 million in assets were invested with Madoff.

Joi Gordon, chief executive officer of Dress for Success, said she learned Friday night that the nonprofit “has been torpedoed in a vital artery.” Just a day earlier, she had told board members the organization was insulated from any fallout from what authorities have said may be the largest Ponzi scheme in history.

The Picower Foundation, a Palm Beach, Fla.-based charity founded by Barbara and Jeffry Picower, has supported Dress for Success for eight years, Gordon said. The foundation’s funding sponsored the organization’s outreach to the fashion community, creating a staff position to target the apparel-beauty-accessories sector for in-kind donations.

“Annually, this concerted effort would garner DFS about $4 million worth of product that was then redistributed to our affiliates around the globe,” Gordon said. “Hundreds of thousands of women over the past seven years have received new clothes, shoes and beauty products because The Picower Foundation allowed us to focus our energies on creating and cultivating relationships.

“Dress for Success has suffered a deep loss,” Gordon said. “Dress for Success now has to regroup in the New Year and hope that Bernard Madoff’s actions don’t continue to impact our work and create more grief for women and families. Without the suit, how does a woman go on an interview, how does she get a job?”

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