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Pujana and Wang revitalize fashion in Cleveland to help Independence Place

By Arooj Ashraf, La Prensa Correspondent

Fashion and philanthropy joined forces at the Ritz Carlton on June 6, 2011 to benefit Independence Place, YWCA Greater Cleveland housing program for young women between 18 -24 years of age transitioning out of foster care.

Hosts Dr. Maria Pujana of MariseDesigns and Vanni Wang of Lucio Vanni Couture enjoy the fashion show

Foster children are legally required to leave foster families as they turn 18 years of age, often ending up in homeless shelters and caught in a downward spiral of substance abuse.

“Your generous support will allow 21 beautiful women to now have a home,” said Executive Director Margaret Mitchell. Two hundred young adults drop out of foster care each year in Ohio, “Now no one will be left in the gap,” she said.

Planning for the program began four years ago and renovation of YWCA headquarters began to accommodate 23 efficiency apartments. The facility is energy efficient and fully equipped with kitchen, laundry facilities, common areas, and play rooms.

Mitchell said residents are assigned case managers who facilitate independent living skills through YWCA’s Nurturing Independence & Aspirations program.  “Many need help obtaining their GED,” she said, but soft skills like housekeeping, financial checks and balances are also taught. All residents have spent time at a homeless shelter more than four times in the last year. 

The facility is not a temporary solution but designed as a transitional home, preparing residents for a stable brighter future.

Foster children suffer more post traumatic stress than soldiers returning from war; and Independence Place ensures mental health care is accessible to residents for counseling.  “It is a commitment many of our residents will have to make for life,” she said.

Katherine Miracle, founder of Miracle Resources reminded guests the difference their presence will makes in the lives of these young women and thanked hosts Dr. María Pujana and Vanni Wang for collaborating on a sophisticated event that highlights not just the philanthropic heart of Cleveland but also testifies to its revitalization. “So often we asked the wrong W – Why Cleveland?” Miracle said opportunities are flourishing as Cleveland goes global and uncapped potential in the region should encourage the region to say: ‘Welcome’.

Presenting Cleveland Fashion icon Dixie Lee Davis with a proclamation of appreciation from Mayor Frank J. Jackson, Eduardo Romero said the city has potential to become the fashion center for not only the country but also the world.

Dr. Maria Pujana of MariseDesigns and
Vanni Wang of Lucio Vanni Couture pose with models after the finale

The fashion showcased exquisite designer jewelry by Marisé Designs and 26 couture dresses by Lucio Vanni, that beautifully merged style and elegance.

The Marisé Designs collection features the finest natural materials like gold, silver, precious gem stones and pearls, hand-crafted into versatile fashion accessories that easily merge from daywear to nightwear. The collection was first introduced in 2001, in Asunción, Paraguay and since then has been made available through Saks Fifth Ave. stores nationwide.

Philanthropy is a central mission for Marisé Designs, which frequently donates jewelry to fundraise for important causes such as the Independence House.

Wang has ambitious plans to revitalize the art of apparel manufacturing in Cleveland and her team seeks to expand business and create jobs here at home and overseas.  She plans to open a new manufacturing facility in Cleveland and recruit skilled garment apparel workers from the region.

Funds raised directly benefit the program and contribute to Fashion Group International Scholarship Fund. 

For more information visit: http://www.marisedesigns.com


Margaret Mitchell, YWCA executive director
watches with friends, Mr. and Mrs.
Ernest Brown


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Copyright © 1989 to 2011 by [LaPrensa Publications Inc.]. All rights reserved.
Revised: 06/14/11 18:58:59 -0700.





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