There was nothing little about the Evening of the Little Black Dress — which turned out to be the largest fundraising event ever hosted by Goodwill of Northern New England.

It was also the organization’s first fundraiser for its new Veteran Emergency Response Fund. Between sponsorships, ticket sales, a boutique, and both live and silent auctions, nearly $50,000 was raised.

“It’s for a fund basically to get obstacles out of people’s way,” said Trendy Stanchfield, director of development at Goodwill. “It’s a quick, easy, no-red-tape way to get money into the community.”

Whether the veteran requests help with first month’s rent, or go toward safe tires or heating oil, the fund would directly pay the vendor. The idea is to remove barriers that impede veterans from living to their potential, no matter how long since they have returned to civilian life.

“Sponsorships started the fund,” Stanchfield said. “This is making the fund sustainable.”

The fund will be overseen by a committee of Goodwill staff, veterans and social workers.

Committee member Benjamin Kamilewicz said that when he returned from Iraq almost seven years ago, he struggled with re-entering civilian life but was lucky to have family and community support. “I see veterans who don’t have community,” he said, explaining that organizations like Goodwill can help fill that gap.

“So many things fall through the cracks, and we want to be able to help them,” said Julie Kramer, one of the three event committee members.

“My father was a veteran,” said Renee Thompson, assistant manager of Goodwill’s e-commerce department. “He passed two years ago. I’m really passionate about raising money for veterans and homelessness. My dad struggled with homelessness and alcoholism, and there weren’t opportunities to help take care of this stuff.”

“A significant number of homeless people in Maine are veterans,” said Alex Cornell du Houx, a public affairs officer in the Navy who will be heading to Bahrain next month. “It is heartening to see Goodwill support those who put their lives on the line when they come home and need some basic needs met.”

“A lot of the guys coming back nowadays need a hand up,” said Andy Nightingale, an Army veteran from Saco. “I know a lot of veterans coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan. Soldiers don’t want to accept help. And sometimes it’s easier to ask a stranger or a group than to ask someone who knows you. Your pride can get in the way.”

“I hope this is the first of many opportunities to raise money for this venture and that it’s something that continues,” Thompson said.

“Services like those from Goodwill mean a lot,” Du Houx said.

More than 250 people attended the second annual event — this time at the Ocean Gateway. The evening included a fashion show of upscale looks at Goodwill prices, with most outfits, including shoes and accessories, coming to less than $25 when purchased at local Goodwill thrift stores.

Amy Paradysz is a freelance writer from Scarborough. She can be contacted at:

amyedits@aol.com