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Black Tie and Tales
Black Tie Monday, Oct. 28, 2019 2 years ago

Nonprofits mix handbags and happy hour at Lakewood Ranch

Designer Bags, happy hour and tropical photo walls have been what's happening at this week's events.
by: Harry Sayer Staff Writer

It’s Happy Hour

Much of Sarasota’s Black Tie scene can be found at two specific times — early-afternoon lunches, or evening fundraisers. Every once in a while, though, you can find a different time window while supporting a good cause. 

Such was the case at this year’s Handbags & Happy Hour hosted 4:30 p.m. Oct. 24. This year’s event was a collaboration between Women’s Resource Center and HOPE Family Services, a domestic violence agency in Manatee county. The point of the event was to raise awareness of the organization’s support programs and resources for women in need, as well as support financial self-sufficiency in women. Amanda Panico and Patti Wrobel were the co-chairs for the luncheon, which was hosted at the Lakewood Ranch Golf & Country Club.

“It’s easy for people to attend; it doesn’t interfere with their workday,” says Ashley Brown, president and CEO of Women’s Resource Center. “(People) can stop by on their way home.”

More than 200 guests sipped drinks and perused more than 150 premier bags from various shops and boutiques. The bags were from Louis Vuitton, Coach, Tory Burch, Michael Kors, Versace, and many more. 

It’s the second year in a row that the groups have hosted the happy hour meetup instead of a luncheon. This year had a “Handbag Hustle”, a musical chairs-esque game where guests had the chance to win special bags. There was also a raffle as well as a pop-up boutique that sold pre-owned handbags, where the proceeds benefited the cause.  


Building the Green Wall

If you attended the Lilly Pulitzer Luncheon and Fashion Show put on by the Junior League of Sarasota Oct. 25 (or you saw my photos online or in this very paper), you probably got a look at the green wall backdrop that had countless guests posing in front of it for photos. It was a definite hit at the lunch, and it was the work of one specific Junior League member. 

“I had an idea based on another event where I’d done a rose wall at the Selby Garden,” said Caroleen Brej. “It made me want to do a green wall for this event … it gives a unique feel to any event."

Brej, in her first full year as a Junior League member, came up with the idea to have a vibrant green wall with hot-pink lettering to evoke the style of Lilly Pulitzer. To go further, she added multicolored balloons as well as vintage peacock chairs from Fort Myers to match the event’s Cuban theme. 

All in all, planning the wall took a couple weeks and the actual construction took much of the night before the show. Brej says it was completely worth it.

“I do commercial litigation … this is a nice outlet for me to express my artistic side,” Brej said. “It’s something I don’t really do when I’m practicing law.”


Selah Freedom raised $176,000 at its Rock the Boat event toward a $250,000 matching gift from the Pentecost Family. President and CEO Elizabeth-Melendez Fisher Good says there’s still $74,000 left in matching dollars.

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Harry Sayer is the Black Tie Reporter for the Observer. He is a graduate of the University of Central Florida and previously worked the Black Tie beat for the Observer newspaper in Winter Park and Maitland. You can catch him at one of Sarasota's fundraisers and shindigs. 

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