“Casita Maria started 80 years ago in the living room of the Sullivan sisters who were cousins of Ed Sullivan,” Jacqueline Weld Drake told us at their Fiesta 2014 gala, at the Plaza Hotel. The Sullivan sisters, both teachers, set the focus on the immigrating Latino families, where it remains. From their living room it grew to be this organization which educates and provides after-school programs for thousands of children in the South Bronx. “Our arts programs are the gems of the tiara. We have them in different schools outside our main building And we also have performances and community events in our beautiful state of the art building on Simpson Street, that we have done in conjunction with the Board of Education. So we essentially serve the community and its needs, to empower youth to build a life beyond the three square blocks they live in.”
Tito Puentes, Rita Moreno, Ballet Hispanico founder Tina Ramirez, and DJ Grandmaster Flash are among Casita Maria Center for Arts & Education many successful alumni.
Aileen Mehle and Prince Dimitri of Yugoslavia were Drake’s Dinner Co-chairs, as usual. Lynn Wyatt, Hilda Ochoa-Brillembourg, and Santiago Calatrava were honored. Honorary Chairs were Ana Cristina Alvarado and Maria Eugenia & William Haseltine. The Pachanga Chairmen were Alexandre J. Leviant and Florence Peyrelongue. Christopher Mason served as master of ceremonies. The Bob Hardwick Sound and his Latino All Star Sound kept guest dancing.
Who was there? Fabiola Arias, Tony Bechara, Kelly Bensimon, Geoffrey Bradfield, Beth Rudin DeWoody, John Demsey, Jamee Gregory and Peter Gregory, Audrey Gruss and Martin Gruss, Michele Gerber Klein, Ann Rapp, Jean Shafiroff and Martin Shafiroff, Barbara Tober and Donald Tober, Adrienne Vittadini and Gianluigi Vittadini, and Kristi Witker were among the more than 400.