As Sisterhood for Good members prepared for Phantom: A Masquerade Ball, the simple question had to be asked.
Why do all you ladies seem to be excited to be wearing a mask to this fundraiser?
Sitting on the couch at the Lakewood Ranch home of Angela Massaro-Fain, Kathy Osterberg provided the answer.
"It's because with a mask, we can be like Angela is now," Osterberg said, flashing a big smile.
Massaro-Fain, the founder of Sisterhood for Good, has never been described as a shrinking violet. And when it comes to raising money for area nonprofits, she can be direct, and bold, and unapologetic.
Her fellow Sisters obviously like the thought of elevating their direct, and bold, and unapologetic game for one night — or at least until everyone figures out who they are.
"Wearing a mask is really kind of fun, sneaky, mysterious," said Sisterhood for Good member Amy Gorman.
Massaro-Fain knew that Phantom: A Masquerade Ball would be the perfect followup to last year's smashing fundraiser, the Gatsby Speakeasy Soirée. Or at least she knew it when she heard fellow Sisterhood for Good member Becca Towery say it.
"A week after Gatsby, Becca called me," Massaro-Fain said. "She said, 'I have an idea. Let me run it by you.' She said, 'Phantom,' and I said, 'Stop!'"
Right away Massaro-Fain knew this year's fundraiser would be even bigger.
Knowing the theme a year from Phantom: A Masquerade Ball's Feb. 16 date at the Hyatt Regency in Sarasota gave those who plan to attend plenty of shopping time. Each had a different plan when it came to finding the perfect dress, and mask, and accoutrements.
Roxanne Sima let her laptop be her guide.
"Amazon has everything," she said when it came to finding an outfit. "They have gloves, capes, masks."
She eventually picked a dress because she liked the "flowingness." She liked the mask she found because it didn't cover both her eyes.
It should be adequate, though, to protect her identity, at least for a short period.
"I like the mystique, and the thought someone won't know me," she said. "And I've always loved 'Phantom.' I love the gowns, the dresses, the intrigue, the music.
"And besides that, we are raising money for our mission."
Sisterhood for Good's mission is "To enhance our local community, Sarasota and Manatee, through an Annual Grants Program supported by an all-female, all-volunteer organization."
But why not have some fun along the way?
"This is people getting together to support the community, just with a little more glitz," Osterberg said.
Osterberg was going to use a mask she had found at Spirit Halloween at UTC but she ended up swapping masks with her sister, Gorman, because that one went better with her dress. She admits that wearing a mask should be a different fundraising experience.
"You can look at people and contemplate," she said of everyone having a touch of anonymity. "I do sense a higher secrecy and mystique."
Gorman found her dress in a shop during a trip to Salt Lake City. Her gloves were purchased for last year's Gatsby event.
"I love the themes," she said of Sisterhood for Good fundraisers.
June Braighwaite said she "shopped in my closet" and picked out a dress that looks Victorian. She had bought it in Aspen, Colorado, and once wore it to the opera. She bought a necklace at Garden Argosy of Sarasota.
"I am not normally a dress-up kind of girl," she said. "But this will be fun. You get to guess who people are, and people won't recognize you immediately."
Kathy Collums said it is key to helping area nonprofits to have events that can raise significant funds. She said Phantomm will be one of those.
"We want to create an awareness of Sisterhood for Good," she said.
After the Sisters handed out $110,800 last year to 32 local nonprofits," it's likely people have a keen awareness of Massaro-Fain and crew, which now numbers more than 200 members.
As far as her outfit, Collums will wear gold and black.
"Gold is majestic," she said. "It shows strength."
Samina Morrow was asked about the draw of wearing a mask.
"How often do we get to do this as adults?" she said. "It's fun, creative, and we are doing good."
She said the mask will allow "everyone to be a little freer. It's like being disguised."
It's hard to believe Julie Benjamin will be "freer" wearing a crinoline under her dress. A crinoline is a structured petticoat designed to hold out the dress. However, Benjamin said she liked it. She found her outfit at All Dressed Up in Ellenton. She will be wearing a mask that she almost threw away because she had bought it years before for Halloween. She painted it blue to go with her outfit.
Massaro-Fain said those she knows who are attending the event are having fun putting together outfits. She said the Phantom theme is "more dramatic" than the Gatsby theme.
Her own outfit was accented by a beautiful necklace. Is it hard to find the proper jewelry to go with the Phantom outfits?
"Diamonds go with everything," she said with a smile.
Jay Heater is the managing editor of the East County Observer. Overall, he has been in the business more than 41 years, 26 spent at the Contra Costa Times in the San Francisco Bay area as a sportswriter covering college football and basketball, boxing and horse racing.