The worlds of luxury and charity converged Tuesday at Town & Country’s third annual Philanthropy Summit held at New York’s Historical Society.
The event drew an eclectic mix of corporate types, foundation leaders, designers, journalists, entertainers — does Dorinda Medley from Bravo’s “The Real Housewives of New York” count? — and generally wealthy people.
Upon arrival, guests were handed a paper agenda, name tag and iPad, which housed a digital agenda of speakers and bios, a fancy yet somewhat redundant touch.
Aside from delving into issues ranging from cancer research, water conservation, private wealth and hunger, the day acted as a sort of “coming out” or debut for T&C’s newly crowned editor in chief Stellene Volandes, who led a panel on supporting the arts.
Jay Fielden, Esquire editor in chief and editorial director of T&C, introduced Volandes, who took the to stage to speak with “Hamilton” star Leslie Odom Jr. and Toby Boshak, the executive director of the Princess Grace Foundation.
The actor, who plays Aaron Burr in “Hamilton,” won a Princess Grace award in 2002, which provided him with a stipend during his senior year at Carnegie Mellon University.
“Let’s talk turkey, they gave me $15,000. That was a big deal,” Odom said, explaining that the award not only allowed him to finish his schooling, but also gave him “encouragement” to continue his craft and “affirmation” of his talent.
Odom, who is nominated for a Tony for Best Performance by a lead actor this year, expressed how important it is for him to “stay connected” to the winners of the Princess Grace awards.
“I go to the awards gala when I can each year. I want to meet these kids because they might be in the position to give me a job,” he said. “I want to meet them because we’ll be working together, and the talent is extraordinary.”
Later in the day, designer Michael Kors addressed an issue close to his heart on a panel called: “The Hunger Crisis: Are We Making Progress.”
“I’m interested in results,” said Kors, who first got his start fighting hunger at God’s Love We Deliver, where his contributions helped rebuild and expand their Greenwich Village headquarters and then with the World Food Programme, where proceeds from his Watch Hunger Stop campaign have helped feed more than 10 million schoolchildren.
As far as meal preparation, Kors’ competitive streak often comes into play. While he’s not that precise at chopping, when it comes to packing the meals, he’s like that “I Love Lucy” episode where Lucy and Ethel are wrapping chocolates on the conveyor belt.
“How many did we pack? Is that the most meals anybody packed?” he found himself asking. “You can be competitive in philanthropy,” he said.
Blaine Trump, lifetime vice chairman of the board of directors of God’s Love We Deliver, said the organization has started freezing meals since so many of their clients have doctor’s appointments and other things they need to tend to.
“Most of our meals are frozen and they can have a warm meal when they’re ready,” said Trump, noting that in June, God’s Love will deliver its 18 millionth meal.
When moderator Alina Cho asked whether zero hunger is achievable in our lifetime, Elisabeth Rasmusson, assistant executive director of the World Food Programme, said, “Absolutely. We are producing enough food in the world today. It’s about ensuring that everybody has access to food. It’s about distributing food. It’s about making sure that we don’t waste food because we don’t have ways of storing it or transporting it. We’re wasting 40 percent of food.”