Women find it's Priceless to be pampered for a good cause

SCENE & HEARD

Scene&heard

December 25, 2006|By SLOANE BROWN

FOR WOMEN WHO LOVE DOING ALL THE girly things, "Be The Star 2006" was the perfect party. This women-only gala, a benefit for the Priceless Gown Project, involved all the fun aspects of getting gussied up.

Guests arrived at the Marriott Inner Harbor Camden Yards in their formal best. Once they entered the ballroom, they found hairstylists and makeup artists ready to work their magic. They could peruse purses, accessories and apparel from local boutiques. Or they could just nab a glass of champagne and lounge with their girlfriends on canopied divans piled with pillows.

"The champagne is good, but the purses are better," noted Eliza Steinmeier, executive director of Baltimore Harbor Waterkeeper, to her friends Laura Carpenter, a local real estate investor, and Robin Kerr, a studio graphics artist for Chess Communications Group.

"It's just such an experience. You feel so elegant and pampered," said Comcast public relations manager Anna Custer.

"And relaxed," added her sister-in-law, Shelle Custer.

"We're having a great time with the champagne, and getting lots of shopping ideas. It's exciting to know we can have fun and help a good cause," said M&T Bank assistant vice president Heidi Boan.

"Champagne and charity go so well together," summed up M&T colleague Kristen Space.

The Priceless Gown Project raises funds to help high school girls in need go to their proms.

"This is less a fundraiser than a way to raise awareness of this fledgling charity," explained event chair Monyka Berrocosa. This is the third year her organization, The Women's Wine & Dine, has put on the event.

"This encompasses everything we work on all year long, which is to raise money for women-centered charities," said WW&D board member Leslie Greenly Smith. "It's a chance to do something for a worthy cause and do something for ourselves," she said with a smile.

A DRINK WITH JOHN HOEY

Living a simpler life in a city that has improved

For John Hoey, 46, the holiday spirit came about six months early this year. That's when he left his longtime job running a division at Educate (formerly Sylvan Learning, then Laureate) to become president and CEO of the YMCA of Central Maryland. Hoey grew up in New York, but moved to Baltimore in 1989 with Citicorp, where he was a vice president. Hoey is divorced, and lives with his 10-year-old son, Liam, in the Guilford section of Baltimore.

With such a wide-ranging career, how do you describe yourself professionally?

I'm an organizational change agent. It may sound silly. But, basically what I do is try to grow and / or turn around organizations, try to make them better. ... It's what I like to do. My son and I have this thing. [He asks,] "What do dads do?" And I say, "Dads figure things out."

You've been in Baltimore now for 17 years. Do you feel like a Baltimorean?

Not completely. I really feel a part of this community, but I'll always be a New Yorker at heart. But I don't ever see myself leaving here.

What is it about Baltimore that captured you?

I think Baltimore is the ultimate big / little town. New York is the most invigorating and stimulating place, perhaps, in the world. ... Baltimore makes you feel more at home, and you can actually make an impact. And I think it's become a much cooler place since I got here 17 years ago. Not because of me.

How has it gotten cooler?

When I first moved here, I did go to Washington for everything. Restaurants, theater. Just to feel like I was in a city. And 17 years later, I still love to go to D.C. But Baltimore has so much more going on [now]. Better restaurants, and culturally. There's more development in Canton, Fells Point and Federal Hill. They're alive and interesting.

Let's talk about another big change -- your job.

I was minding my own business, running a business, and I got a call from Julie Mercer, who was on the [YMCA] board, running the search for the CEO job. Initially, I ... ignored it. ... But, she gave me a lot to think about, and the more I learned, the more intrigued I got. And eventually I came to realize this was that rare opportunity to do something really important with my life, while I was still at the peak of my professional years. The great thing about the Y, it's a really big human services organization and it's a really interesting business, too. It appeals to me on a whole lot of levels.

How has this job affected your role as a single parent?

I have to learn how to juggle. Every day. And my son always comes first. I think I have a better appreciation than most CEOs do of what most employees have to go through, just to get through the day. Because I'm going through those things, too.

Do all these duties leave much time for a social life?

For a year and a half, I was dating somebody on the West Coast. And I was a single dad and trying to start up a university in India. At that point, I kind of maxed out on my ability to keep all the balls in the air. I've definitely simplified my life now. My job is here. I don't have to travel. I'm in a serious relationship with a woman in Baltimore. And I'm still a single dad, but I'm able to do even more than I did before. So, this has been perfect.

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