NEW YORK — A slew of fashion designers and industry veterans took over the third floor of the Plaza Hotel here for an afternoon luncheon with HELP USA, an organization that provides services to veterans, victims of domestic violence, and the homeless, while providing scholarships to women and men.
The day began with Maria Cuomo Cole, chairman of the organization, along with the year’s host Meredith Vieira. The event also recognized, for their community service activism, Xerox chairman and chief executive officer Ursula Burns; actors and activists Boris Kodjoe and his wife, Nicole Ari Parker, and Alice + Olivia chief executive officer and creative designer Stacey Bendet, who was given an honor from Andrew Rosen.
“Our brand and my company is so much about empowering and inspiring women,” Bendet said. “They’re completely giving them a new start in their lives and giving victims of domestic violence help on a really different level.”
The issue of homelessness and domestic violence was meaningful, Bendet said, because she’s been a longtime activist for women.
“In my business, it’s important for women to support other women,” she said.
“Stacey’s an incredible individual who I love working with every day,” said Rosen, who is an investor in Alice + Olivia. “She’s got an incredible business. There are so many other great designers and business people who give back, and I really am thankful that I’m part of an industry that I love.”
Rosen said that for him, the holiday season was a reminder to help other individuals, especially the younger generation.
“It’s all part of what we do,” he said. “I remember when I was younger, people helped me and supported me. It’s very important as I have grown in this industry to help grow and help young designers and that’s where I spend my time: helping the young navigate these waters.”
Kodjoe, who was also given a special HELP Hero Award, said that he finds it is necessary to be a part of an organization that will “give a voice to those who don’t have one.
“Anytime we can get together and actually give some measurable impact and tangible service, it’s a great thing,” he said.
HELP USA has helped serve more than 300,000 people since it was founded in 1986. Today, it serves more than 20,000 people each year, at 41 programs across the country.