Bradenton church plans awards, fashion gala

BRADENTON -- A local church has taken a page from the Academy Awards for its signature fundraiser.

Ward Temple African Methodist Episcopal will literally roll out the red carpet May 19 for its second annual fashion show and awards dinner at the Renaissance on 9th in Bradenton.

The "Ebony Excellence Awards, A Night of Red Carpet Elegance" is the church's largest fundraiser of the year, with all of the proceeds benefiting its youth summer program.

"We take pride in it because it's unique, fun and for a good cause," said event chair Mildred Moten-Golden.

The $50 ticket price -- $400 per table -- buys dinner and seat to the fashion show and awards ceremony.

The black-tie event drew about 150 attendees last year, raising $3,000 for the church's SCOPE program. Event organizers are expecting similar results for 2012.

The SCOPE summer program helps keep about 80 kids from ages 6 to 17 off the street each summer with a daily structure of organized activities that place a heavy emphasis on education.

The low-cost program even features field trips. Breakfast, lunch and transportation for the kids is included.

Aside from door-to-door fundraising, the ceremony this month is the program's only source of operating funds.

Ward Temple has about 150 active members, led by the Rev. James T. Golden.

"Many companies are not giving as much as they have in the past or not giving at all," Moten-Golden said. "This gives us the opportunity to have a great evening and provides the additional revenue we desperately need."

As part of the event, models and distinguished leaders from the community will occupy the runway to strut the latest fashions. Kids from the benefiting summer program also will walk in the fashion show.

The ceremony will feature live music and awards for

categories ranging from education and business to outreach and clergy leadership -- honoring those who have made a difference during the past year.

The honorees this year include Lillie Covington, a retired educator with Manatee County Schools; Rita Smith, a community activist and local Realtor; Mary Ruiz, president and CEO of Manatee Glens; Kim Woods, vice president of advertising for the Bradenton Herald; and Samida Johnson, pastor and teacher of Tabernacle of Higher Learning Christian Center.

"It's very touching when people in our community reach out to you and say you're making a difference," Ruiz said. "It's almost like you get extra credit."

For more information or to purchase tickets to the event, call 941-747-8288.

Josh Salman, Herald business writer, can be reached at 941-586-0031. Follow him on Twitter @JoshSalman.