(Chicago, April 25, 2013) The invitation read the event start time for the Stanley Paul – Raelene Mittelman Scholarship Benefit as 6:00 pm, but a steady stream of guests were already making their way into the tony Gold Coast private club, twenty minutes beforehand. Word had quickly spread this year’s fundraiser was the largest crowd ever to attend (almost 400), and all the rooms at the Casino were being used for seating. Looking to snag a prime table in the main room with this year’s honoree, Candace Collins Jordan, guests were staking out their seating long before the program was set to start.
Guests were given a shiny black pebble and asked to cast their vote for one of the top five finalist to help decide the winner of this year’s scholarship. Two design students from Columbia Collage of Chicago and three from Dominican University were this year’s top five.
Chatter could be heard among the guests as they enjoyed wine and passed beverages; “Which design did you vote for”…”I’m not saying”…”I haven’t decided yet”…”It was between two”…”I liked”… and more.
At the door to the main room Candace greeted everyone and — in typical Candace style – everyone got a huge smile and a hug. Candace was the picture of couture in a steel-blue strapless pant ensemble by local designer, Barbara Bates. She completed the look with Van Cleef & Arpels, Flowerlace necklace and earrings set, a fleurette motif of cascading diamonds in elegant white gold. A large portrait of Candace, created by well-known fashion illustrator, Rosemary Fanti, rested on an easel at the entryway. Guests were invited to inscribe their congratulatory comments and well wishes around the perimeter of the artwork. Debi Lilly of A Perfect Event had created floral arrangements of white hydrangeas giving the venue a light, airy feel.
Conversation and mingling continued until everyone was asked to take their seat (if they had one) for the start of the program. Soon all the tables were filled with guests and there were several rows of “standing room only”. People quieted when emcee Bill Zwecker, Sun-Times Entertainment Columnist and FOX News Reporter began. After welcoming everyone he looked out on the packed room, then at Candace and said: “Up until tonight I had the largest gathering but you’ve outdone me and I’m happy to see such a great group of people come out to celebrate you as this year’s honoree.” Bill introduced Stanley Paul who said how delighted he was to see so many people at the fundraiser for the Stanley Paul — Raelene Mittelman Scholarship Benefit founded in honor of his late sister, Raelene. He introduced his niece, Joanie Legittino, and then announced this year’s event completes the funding for the underwriting of the computer lab which has been on ongoing project of his foundation.
Bill Zwecker took the podium again and introduced the friends Candace had selected as her toasters. Each spoke lovingly of Candace and her friendship, kindness and tireless energy: First to speak, legendary funnyman, Tom Dreesen who said, “When I think of Candace I think of a ball of energy looking for a place to land. If she starts something you can bet she’s going to finish it and if she gives you her word, you don’t need a contract. Tom was followed by Rhonda Sanderson, one of the first people Candace met when she moved to Chicago; Joffrey Women’s Board co-founder, Helen Melchior; Leslie Hindman of Leslie Hindman Auctioneers; Executive Producer at Kurtis Productions, Donna LaPietra who surprised Candace with a video featuring highlights of her career which included the earliest on-camera footage of Candace as a Playboy Bunny — an interview with John «Bulldog» Drummond which LaPietra had produced 30 years earlier and can be viewed on YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=flPYu1ZTPX0.
Chicago Tribune VP & Associate Editor Joycelyn Winnecke remarked, “We like having Candace on the Chicago Tribune team. She connects our readers to the philanthropic spirit of Chicago — the people and organizations so critical to our city. The truth is we need Candace’s smiley faces and exclamation marks. They’re aimed at making the world better. As is Candace.”
When it was Candace’s turn, she spoke about the reason she chose each of her toasters. Of Rhonda Sanderson, she said she has known her the longest; “She helped me start my blog and has always been a shoulder to laugh and cry on. I owe her a lot. She is the true definition of friend and I’m so happy to have her in my life;” and of her husband, Chuck, “I wouldn’t be standing up here at all without the love of my wonderful husband Chuck. His love and support inspires me every single day.”
She ended by saying, “My best and my favorites are all gathered here tonight. I don’t have words to describe how wonderful this feels…Thanks so much to all of you for being here with me tonight. I will never, ever forget it” — a sentiment everyone could feel was echoed around the room.
A delicious supper buffet followed…and the pièce de résistance – individually boxed mini chocolate cakes as a parting gift from Eli’s Cheesecake.
Past honorees include Hazel Barr, Mary Ann Childers, Ann Gerber, Skip Grisham, , Mark Heister, Leslie Hindman, Nena Ivon, Tony Jones, Donna LaPietra, Sherren Leigh, Dori Wilson, Victor Skrebneski, Bill Zwecker, and the late Beverly Blettner.
About: The Stanley Paul ~ Raelene Mittelman Fashion Design Scholarship Fund was established in 1990 by Stanley Paul to honor his late sister, Raelene. Through the Scholarship Fund, awards are made annually, to college students from the Greater Chicago area who are enrolled in a fashion design program. The Scholarship monies are used as tuition for the study of Fashion Design in a Chicago area College or University.
The 2013 Stanley Paul ~ Raelene Mittelman Scholarship will be awarded to one of the five finalists on September 19, at the Leadership Awards Gala, in partnership with the 100 Club of Chicago and the Apparel Industry Foundation. For additional information, please visit http://aibi.com/pages/scholarship.html
*On a personal note, I was honored when Candace asked me to help write her bio for the invitation and the program book. Collaborating together and in just a couple drafts, we had it. Candace is always so appreciative of anyone’s contributions but the comment from her that meant so much to me was; “I love how you wrote the last paragraph. I’ve never really known if I should include Chuck and Charley in my bio.” The last paragraph of her bio reads — “As wife to Chuck, stepmother to Charley and mom to Chihuahuas, Mickey and Rooney, she is a lover of antiques, a collector rare books and paperweights, and enjoys Chicago’s rich charity and social scene. She is known for her boundless energy, loyalty and kindness.” It came easily to me because — all the glamour aside — this is the heart of Candace – her family, her “kids,” and her friends.
Margaret J O’Connor
Photo Credit: Bob Carl & Mila Samokhina