By David Bjorkgren, Editor

Special to the Hellenic News  

Beautiful weather and surroundings.  Beautiful fashions and women. Most importantly, a beautiful cause.

The Greek Orthodox Ladies Philoptochos Society of Saint Luke Chapter 1082 hosted its Diamond Pasarela on an early afternoon Nov. 12 in the newer furnishings of the ballroom at the Ellis Preserve in Newtown Square.

The sell-out event gave 240 women the opportunity for some fellowship, a nice lunch and a chance to check out bridal, cocktail and evening wear fashions from VanCleve in Paoli and menswear fashions Sagets Formal Wear in Drexel Hill and Phoenixville.   

As a bonus, the guests had a chance to win a LAGOS 18K diamond Lux Pave Oval Ring donated by LAGOS, valued at $3,100 and a designer Chanel handbag, diamond embossed lambskin CC with silver chain, valued at $2,100. Other prizes included a “Taste of Italy” basket valued at $360 and door prizes. Other donors included Alex and Eve Occasions, LILA Fashion International, Virginia Kyriakatos, Anastasia Ververelli and Jo Ann Smith.

The fashions were modeled by 13 women volunteers, eight men volunteers and four girls, all from St. Luke’s Greek Orthodox Church in Broomall.

“Every two years we do a fundraiser like this in the fall and we bring different companies. This year we have VanCleve and Saget’s Formal Wear. We have volunteers who are models who have given their time to come in and do a nice show for the ladies. All the models are members of the church,” said event co-chairperson Niki Raptis.

Sophia Milinkovic was modeling evening wear, her first time on the runway. Her daughter, Mary O’Donnell, was a flower girl.

“They asked me and I was available to help. Anytime I can volunteer I try to,” Milinkovic said.  Despite a lack of modeling experience she was confident she could pull it off. “I just say you know what you’ve got to do, just go out there and do it. You can’t overthink it,” she said. “Most of the people we know, which is nice.”

Deborah VanCleve, owner of VanCleve, was on hand to announce the show and to help the models.

“We’re hoping to show some fabulous fashions and have a lot of fun,” she said.  VanCleve has worked with the church ladies before but said this was the first time in a while they’ve participated.

“We’re glad to be back here,” VanCleve said. “We have a lot of clients coming from the Greek community so it’s going to be fun.”  The models, being volunteers, are given no special instructions on how to present the fashions. “They look beautiful because they are all gorgeous. We just tell them to go out and have fun. That’s all we need to do.”

VanCleve said any of her fashions modeled at the fashion show are available for purchase. Her boutique was showing off cocktail dresses, evening gowns, bridesmaids and bridal gowns and flower girl dresses.

Funds raised go to charities or to the church fund. Past charities supported by The Greek Orthodox Ladies Philoptochos Society of Saint Luke have included 34 charities, ranging from Wounded Warrior Project to the American Cancer Society to Orthodox Christian Ministries. This year, the money will help pay for a building addition at the church, according to church council member Ted Pappas.

“It’s always nice to see the women of the church get together and enjoy themselves and raise money for the church. It’s a win-win situation,” Pappas said.   

Events like the Diamond Pasarela are important because it creates community along with your fellow Greeks and Orthodox Christians, Milinkovic said.

“You make friendships out of it. More importantly, you raise money for charities and that’s why we’re here. The Ladies Philoptochos does a lot of amazing work across the country so that’s the most important part,” she said.

The Ellis Preserve ballroom is a new venue for the group. Operated by Finley Catering, the 280-seat facility has been open for 13 months.

 “It is a beautiful ballroom and it’s convenient here,” Raptis said, only a short distance from St. Luke.  She said Finley Catering has been great to work with and very accommodating.

Steve Finley said they have been in the catering business for 41 years, operating the Ballroom at the Ben and the Union Trust on Chestnut Street in Philadelphia, the Crystal Tea Room at 100 Penn Square East in Philadelphia, in addition to the Ellis Preserve location. He credits the event’s chairpersons for providing strong leadership and making the fashion show and luncheon so successful.

“It was perfect. It makes our job so easy,” he said. This year’s event was co-chaired by Stacy Floriatos, Toula Nikolas, Angelique Demitros, Niki Raptis, Penny Topalidis and Sue Pilidis.

Finley said his catering business likes to give back to the community. “That’s why we’re doing this affair today. They’re right down the street,” he said.  The catering firm hosts a lot of wedding receptions at the ballroom, with many couples coming from St. Luke.  He added, “Business has been great since we opened.”

Guests said they came out to the fashion show to support a Greek cause and for the fellowship.

“I’m a member of the Philoptochos so I’m here to support the organization,” said Dr. Alicia Stoutland, an orthodontist who had just joined the organization. This was her first time at a fashion show. “I’m hoping to get fellowship, meeting different people I haven’t met, a good meal,” she said.

One woman jokingly admitted an ulterior motive as to why she attended. “The Chanel,” she said with a laugh, adding, “We’re women. What women don’t shop?”