Tea, fashion show raise funds for Pennies for the Homeless

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The Footprints in the Heart Award honors the group's late co-founder, Diane Dal Santo. (Dean Hanson/Journal)

It’s time for the 19th Annual The Pennies for The Homeless High Tea & Fashion Show Extravaganza and this year’s featured designer will be Lourdes Chavez from California. She specializes in high fashion/couture designs.

The show will be held Nov. 13 from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. at Hotel Albuquerque in Old Town. Party goers will have the opportunity to shop high-end local businesses before the fashion show.

This year organizers will also unveil a new award that will honor co-founder, the late District Court Judge Diane Dal Santo, who died in July 2015 from a heart-related illness. She and Joseph Saavedra started the nonprofit organization Pennies for the Homeless in 1993 and the annual fashion show a few years after that.

Saavedra said he was inspired by Albuquerque Public Schools children who were bringing in their pennies to help local homeless people. He said he asked Dal Santo, an advocate for women, children and the homeless, to help him turn the children’s effort into an official organization.

The annual fashion show is the group’s major fundraising effort. Money raised by the show goes to nearly two dozen organizations in the surrounding area, including Joy Junction, Barrett House, Haven House, Healthcare for the Homeless, the Salvation Army and Roadrunner Food Bank. Saavedra said the 2015 event raised $75,000.

The draw for the event, Saavedra said, is the top designers he brings from out of state.

This year’s designer was born in Mexico and grew up with eight brothers. Lourdes Chavez’s family moved to Los Angeles when she was 9. She showed interest in fashion from the age of 6, designing dresses for her paperdolls. She attended the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising. Chavez started her own label in 1998 after years of studying abroad. She has built a multi-million-dollar company with her pieces selling in speciality and boutique stores across the country.

“I love her line of clothes,” Saavedra said. “It’s very wearable.”

Her collections feature extravagant embellishments and bright, vibrant colors. Attendees will have the chance to custom order the designer’s fashions.

“At the end of the show, you can be measured and have an outfit custom made for you,” Saavedra said.

This year Saavedra said he wanted to honor the woman who helped him found the organization more than two decades ago, launching the Footprints in the Heart Award. The award recognizes people who help and give back to the community.

“At her (Dal Santo’s) memorial, someone read the quote by Eleanor Roosevelt that said ‘Many people will walk in and out of your life, but only true friends will leave footprints in your heart,'” he said. “I thought that was perfect and described Diane.”

The award is a locket featuring footprints and two pennies. This year’s nominees are Patty Kehoe of Molina Healthcare; Jeremy Reynalds of Joy Junction; Pastor Dinah Baca of Restoration Ministries, who is deceased; and Helen Fox, founder of Albuquerque’s first Title I Program for homeless students.

Saavedra said after living in the Los Angeles area as a young adult and seeing the homeless population there and then returning to Albuquerque he was inspired to do something.

“I came home and saw the reality of what was happening,” he said. “I knew I had to do something. My passion to help people keeps me going.”

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Two pieces from designer Lourdes Chavez's 2016 fall and winter collection. The California designer will be featured at the Pennies for the Homeless High Tea & Fashion Show Extravaganza on Nov. 13. (Dean Hanson/Journal)

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