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Models to help Haiti recovery

Models in an upcoming fashion show will eventually join From Here to Haiti, a nonprofit that organized this repair of the Marie Reine Immaculee Church roof. Photo by Christina Santucci
TimesLedger Newspapers

The runway won’t end at the fashion show for these models.

Two Queens organizations have teamed up to show off some haute couture clothing at a charity event this month — and then fly 10 of the models to Haiti where they will trade heels for construction boots and repair schools and churches damaged in the massive 2010 earthquake.

“These girls are going to be working,” said Patricia Brintle, of From Here to Haiti, a Whitestone nonprofit that has been returning to the island for years to help repair seriously damaged infrastructure. “They are going to be sore, but a good kind of sore.”

The June 26 charity fashion show will help raise money for three projects Brintle hopes to start next spring: repairing the damaged roof of a church, installing a toilet in a school and hosting a self-esteem project with Haitian girls.

The 10 women are participants in the annual Shortstack Fashion Show, the brainchild of an Oakland Gardens resident who was once told she was too short to be a model.

Instead of listening to that assessment, Olivia Mignone decided to start her own modeling program to challenge opinions on beauty, and build self-esteem in women from around the city ranging in age from 14 to their early 20s. She joined up with a larger nonprofit run by Hal Eisenberg to make it happen.

“She wanted to take on the industry and say, ‘Why does it have to be a certain standard?’ Next thing she knew, girls were lined up around the block,” he said.

Eisenberg runs the Queens-based Windows of Opportunity and said the values Mignone instills in the 20 women she enrolls for a yearlong program are a perfect fit with Brintle’s mission of civic responsibility.

The two nonprofits came together after Eisenberg was searching for a recipient of his annual Unsung Hero Award, which Windows of Opportunity gives out to someone in the community who is working on meaningful projects under the radar. After finding out more about Brintle’s activities over the last few years, they decided to send half of the group of models to help the still-ailing country.

“I think it’s a fabulous idea!” Brintle said of the partnership.

The Whitestone artist was born in Haiti and retains strong ties to the culture and people there.

“This is an example of how we can give to the communities in Haiti to show them we are all alike. We are all on the same page,” she said.

But the trip cannot get off the ground without the generosity of fellow New Yorkers.

The fashion show will take place at 6:30 p.m. June 26 at the Midtown Loft and Terrace, near the corner of Fifth Avenue and 29th Street in Manhattan.

Tickets, which will fund the undertaking, can be purchased at wooshortstack.org.

Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at januta@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4566.

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