“This isn’t about me,” said Roslyn S. Jaffe, cofounder of the Dressbarn chain. “It’s about everyone here and the winners.”
On Thursday afternoon at Cipriani 42nd Street, “Mrs. J” as she’s affectionately known, hosted the third annual Roslyn S. Jaffe Awards, a grant program honoring, as she says, “everyday heroes” who make the world a better place for women and children in the areas of health, education, social reform and self-esteem. “I’m just lucky enough to have this event using my name,” said Jaffe. She coined the theme for the event which is “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.”
This time around, Jaffe received 2,600 applications for the grants that had to be boiled to down to one grand-prize winner and two runner-up winners. Jaffe presented the founders of GirlTrek, an organization that mobilizes African-American women around the country to take daily walks to improve their health, with the $100,000 grand prize. It was accepted by GirlTrek founders Vanessa Garrison and T. Morgan Dixon, who became friends when they met in college.
“Our goal by 2018 is to mobilize one million African-American women and girls,” said Garrison. Currently, about 75,000 are participating in the program. According to the GirlTrek leaders, two-thirds of African-American women engage in little or no leisure time physical activity and 80 percent are over a healthy body weight.
Keshet, a dance program in Albuquerque, N.M., for handicapped, paroled or incarcerated youth, received a $25,000 grant. “We try to give a voice, an important creative voice, to children with disabilities and children drowning in the prison system,” said Shira Greenberg, founder and artistic director of Keshet.
Also receiving a $25,000 grant was the Mosaic Project, a five-day program uniting fourth and fifth graders from diverse backgrounds. Executive director Lara Mendel said the project provides “an education in diversity and conflict resolution with a message of inclusion.” The idea, she said, is to “demonstrate that peace is possible.”
Among those in the audience were designers Carmen Marc Valvo, Isabel and Ruben Toledo; Roslyn Jaffe’s husband Elliot, the other cofounder of Dressbarn, and his son, David Jaffe, chief executive officer of Dressbarn’s parent company, Ascena. Recently, Elliot Jaffe announced that he would be retiring as non-executive chairman of the board of directors.
“Without Roslyn, I don’t think I would be here today,” said Elliot Jaffe.