Fashion show to support House of Ruth

Cross Keys event collects donations for Ruth's Closet

  • Karen Ciurca-Weiner, right, manager of Jones & Jones boutique at the Village of Cross Keys, helps a customer at the store. The store is participating in an upcoming fashion show to benefit House of Ruth.
Karen Ciurca-Weiner, right, manager of Jones & Jones boutique… (Kenneth K. Lam / Baltimore…)
September 15, 2014|By Donna M. Owens | For The Baltimore Sun

When models strut down the outdoor catwalk at The Village of Cross Keys' annual One Great Fall fashion show on Sept. 20, the sartorial showcase will be about more than hemlines and high heels.

Cross Keys, an upscale enclave of residences, boutiques and cafes in North Baltimore, will utilize the occasion to benefit the House of Ruth Maryland Inc., which provides services aimed at domestic violence victims.

While the glamour and beauty of fashion may seem incompatible with the ugly and violent behavior of domestic abuse, organizers are billing the event as one that, ultimately, empowers women.

"We've been around nearly 50 years, and have a longtime commitment to community advocacy and support," said Valerie Whiteside, Cross Keys' general manager. "Many of our merchants have ties," she noted, to area charities and giving endeavors.

Indeed, last year's fashion show benefitted Suited to Succeed, a local nonprofit that provides free professional clothing and workshops for women transitioning into the workforce.

This year, the fashion festivities will help support Ruth's Closet — a second-hand store in Owings Mills run by the House of Ruth Maryland that carries a selection of higher end, gently used women's clothing and accessories.

A fundraiser at Ruth's Closet, dubbed "One Great Thing," is slated for Oct. 23-26. It will feature deals on donated items — unique, one of a kind luxury clothing, jewelry, shoes and accessories — that tie into the overall "one big" theme.

"The shop is a social enterprise that helps us raise money, to be as self-sufficient as possible," said Terri Wurmser, House of Ruth Maryland's director of development. "The proceeds of what's sold go towards our various programs."

Founded in 1977 by a coalition of women's and religious groups, elected officials and other advocates, the House of Ruth Maryland opened the city's first crisis shelter in a rowhouse on North Calvert Street, with one paid staffer.

Today, the organization is recognized as one of the nation's most comprehensive intimate partner violence centers. It has a $7 million budget and more than 100 employees, ranging from counselors to attorneys.

"We serve upwards of 9,000 clients annually, and our programs benefit about 5,000 more families and community members," said Wurmser.

The group also partners with the Baltimore Ravens, which has been front and center on the issue of domestic abuse over the past week, following the release of a video showing Ray Rice knocking out his then-fiancee, Janay Palmer. Rice was released by the team last week.

The fashion fete, co-hosted by Maryland Public Television's Rhea Feikin and Baltimore Sun social columnist Sloane Brown, will feature a series of runway shows curated by Cross Keys merchants such as Octavia II, The Store Ltd., Jean Pool, Ruth Shaw, Jones & Jones, Chezelle and The Pied Piper.

Beyond the presentations, expect in-store trunk shows and special purchase incentives throughout the weekend beginning Sept. 19.

Fashionistas or anyone who wants to support the cause can drop off items earmarked for Ruth's Closet at Ruth Shaw and Jones & Jones — longtime Cross Keys merchants who have been ardent supporters of the House of Ruth Maryland.

Since Ruth's Closet opened in 2011, the retailers have not only been donation drop-off locations, but have regularly donated merchandise for sale at special events, and created opportunities to encourage their customers to support the shop.

Florence Sokol, owner of Jones & Jones, said she is proud to support an organization that provides a safe haven for victims of domestic violence and their children.

"I first became aware of their work through one of my customers about 20 years ago, and over the years we've become more involved," said Sokol, who adds that she's known women who have suffered domestic abuse. "My husband and I both strongly believe that anything we can do to assist with [House of Ruth] is important, especially since this is a women's store."

The outpouring of generosity is appreciated, said Wurmser, who noted that the House of Ruth Maryland leads the fight to end violence against women and their children by confronting the attitudes and behaviors that perpetuate it and by providing victims with the services necessary to rebuild their lives safely and free of fear.

"This is an issue that affects all of us," she said, citing national data that shows one in four women will experience intimate partner violence at some point in her lifetime. "It cuts through economic, racial and social lines. Ignoring it is not an option."

For information on the House of Ruth, visit hruth.org or call 410-889-RUTH (24-hour hotline). For information on the fashion show, go to villageofcrosskeys.com.

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