The seventh annual Goodwill Little Black Dress fashion show on April 26 raised $86,000 for the Goodwill Veterans Access Fun, which addresses the short-term needs of veterans and their families, such as car repairs, heating fuel assistance and job training.

“Tonight is about giving back to those who volunteer to give their all,” said Jennifer Tyll, a U.S. Naval Academy graduate and mother of five. She addressed the crowd of 285 Goodwill supporters, providing context about the Veterans Access Fund, which has awarded $690,000 in grants since its inception, helping 1,200 veterans in Maine.

“This fund changes people’s lives,” said Ben Kamilewicz of Orrs Island, who served in Iraq with the Army National Guard. “It may not be massive amounts of money, but it is designed to get people over obstacles. It’s about helping anyone who is a veteran.

The high-energy highlight of the Little Black Dress event is the fashion show, featuring local community leaders dressed in Goodwill finds.

“This is the most diverse group we’ve had, and the most elegant,” said fashion show coordinator Lucille Holt Sottery.

The 25 models included Army wife and orthodontist Dr. Meg Dombroski; Ophelia Hu Kinney, president of the Chinese & American Friendship Association of Maine; Alain Nahimana, executive director of the Greater Portland Immigrant Welcome Center; Barrett Takesian, executive director of Portland Community Squash; and author Monica Wood.

“The energy in the room tonight was awesome,” said Development Coordinator Michelle DiSotto. “Tonight, the money raised gives us the opportunity to help lots of veterans. Sometimes it makes the difference in being able to pay bills, fix their tires, get to work or even get tools for work.”

“If we can just get them over the hump, they’ll overcome, support their families and stay in the workforce and keep their pride,” said Shannon Klein, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran. “The goal is simple – to meet the needs and carry on.”

Amy Paradysz is a freelance writer and photographer based in Scarborough. She can be reached at:

[email protected]

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