RISING ABOVE ADVERSITY
Byline: David Moin
NEW YORK — In a ballroom packed with over 500 guests, many moved to tears, Frank Doroff, Bloomingdale’s executive vice president and among the industry’s most popular merchants, was honored with the Phoenix House Fashion Award, Monday night at The Plaza.
The crowd sat riveted, as Doroff got up to the podium and told how he and his family were forever touched by the scourge of drugs. It was in March 2000, when he received a call that his son Josh, a student at Trinity College, had died of drug-related causes. Very soon after, Doroff established the Josh Doroff Memorial Fund to support drug prevention and education programs at Phoenix House.
“I know first-hand the impact Phoenix House can have on young people’s lives,” he said. “Phoenix House has the power to change someone’s life, so that horrible phone call can be prevented.”
That spirit of perseverance and resilience made the evening special, as two young graduates from Phoenix House, a 30-year-old institution fighting substance abuse, were honored for reclaiming their lives from drug addiction. First, Nicole Taylor told the crowd how she grew up in a family of drug addicts, dropped out of school and became addicted to crack. But she was rescued by Phoenix House, where she said, “I learned to love myself.” She recovered, earned a high school diploma, and currently manages a medical office for a group of physical therapists.
Michael Klinger said he was a student at St. John’s University, on a fencing scholarship, when he became a malnourished, psychotic crack addict, stealing to support his habit and landed in the psych ward of a detox center, digging imaginary bugs out of his skin. He, too, entered Phoenix House. “I liked the structure,” he said. “I began to listen to others in the program and learned from them. I felt a kinship.” He eventually moved to his own apartment and became a computer operator. “I learned how to live every day — drug and alcohol free.”
For Bloomingdale’s chairman Michael Gould, Doroff and the Phoenix House graduates embody a lesson in humanity. “If you can’t endure the bad, you can’t live to witness the good,” Gould said.
Katherine Betts, editor in chief of Harper’s Bazaar, was also honored with a Phoenix House Fashion Award. The dinner raised about $877,000 for Phoenix House. Earlier, the industry raised another $100,000 for the Josh Doroff Memorial Fund.
“This industry can be as compassionate as it is competitive,” said Burt Tansky, chief executive officer of the Neiman Marcus Group, and chairman of the board of Phoenix House of Texas.