“This is my favorite day of the year,” said David Jaffe, chairman and chief executive officer of the Ascena Retail Group.

He was, of course, referring to the annual Roslyn S. Jaffe Awards, organized by the Ascena Foundation, which were held Wednesday at Cipriani 42nd Street in Manhattan.

The event, in its fifth year, honors grassroots organizations helping women and children in innovative ways, specifically in the areas of health, education, social reform and esteem.

This year’s winners were Nicole Lewis of Generation Hope, a Washington, D.C.-area nonprofit helping to break cycles of teenage pregnancy and poverty and helping them to lead independent lives and prepare their kids for kindergarten. Lewis, a teen parent herself, received the $100,000 grand prize grant.

Janice Zaballero and Julia Smith of the Breast Treatment Task Force, a grassroots organization providing cancer screening and diagnostic referral to uninsured women in New York, received a $25,000 grant.

And Catherine Lindroth of The Summer Learning Collaborative based in Delaware, which helps community institutions provide summer learning for low-income youth, also received a $25,000 grant.

Soledad O’Brien, Roslyn Jaffe and Nicole Lynn. 

The Ascena Foundation launched a new award category, the Young Changemaker Award, which went to 18-year-old Herlead Fellow Faith Florez of California, the founder of the Latina Legacy Foundation. The Herlead Fellowship is a leadership program founded in 2011 for high school girls who want to make a difference. Florez received a $10,000 grant.

At the Jaffe Awards luncheon, David Jaffe revealed the company’s new Responsibility Report and a goal to raise and donate $250 million by 2025 in support of women and girls.

Catherine Lindroth and Faith Florez 

“When Dressbarn was founded in 1962, my mother instilled her passion for supporting local communities in everything the company did,” Jaffe said. “Now, 56 years later, we have grown this undertaking and continue to activate our brands and associates to positively impact the lives of women and girls in our communities and around the country.”

Roslyn Jaffe cofounded Dressbarn with her husband Elliot in 1962, with the first store opening in Stamford, Conn. They saw a need for a one-stop-shop that offered value-based, fashionable wardrobes for busy women.

Janice Zaballero, Roslyn and David Jaffe. 

Dressbarn grew into a national chain and the Ascena Retail Group, which includes Ann Taylor, Loft, Lou & Grey, Maurices, Lane Bryant, Catherines and Justice.

“When somebody bought something I was so happy because they liked my taste,” said Roslyn.

“Her optimism and resilience kept us going,” said her husband. “The sun wasn’t shining every day. Her motto is, ‘when life gives you lemons, make lemonade.'”

Elliot Jaffe 

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