It was a “touching moment,” for Casita Maria Center for Arts and Education as they celebrated Fiesta 2017 in the wake of two leveling natural disasters, said Jacqueline Weld Drake, who chairs their uber elegant galas with Prince Dimitri of Yugoslavia. “We have primarily been a Puerto Rican organization started by two schoolteachers… And now, again, we have this immigration from Puerto Rico and we, again, have many, many Puerto Rican clients whom we are helping … as well as a great many Mexican clients who come for our programs and the safe haven that we provide.”
“In the midst of these tragedies, Casita Maria stands as a beacon of light and a place for individuals and families to find support,” added Casita Maria’s Executive Director Haydee Morales.
Casita Maria, the first and oldest charity serving Hispanics in New York, was founded by Claire and Elizabeth Sullivan who were public school teachers (and related to Ed Sullivan). It began in a five-room tenement apartment in East Harlem, to help new immigrants. Today, it provides tutoring and college prep courses, arts education, and emotional support for kids from the poorest congressional district in America, where Casita Maria sits.
Designer Carolina and Reinaldo Herrera were gala Co-Chairs. This year’s honorees were: Rosaura Henkel, the Mexican philanthropist extraordinaire for her work with “Duerme Tranquilo” and service to numerous hospitals; New York’s own Elizabeth T. Peabody for her dedication to mental health and compassionate leadership to The Maria Droste Counseling Services, and Julia Salvi, the co-founder and visionary behind the renowned Cartagena International Music Festival. The evening’s host was FOX TV’s Audrey Puente, the daughter of the great Latin percussionist Tito Puente, himself a Casita alumnus and former honoree.
The Honorary Chairs were Violaine and John Bernbach and Pepita Serrano. Fiesta Vice Chairs included Daniel and Estrellita Brodsky, Catholic Charities of New York, Rebecca and Miguel Fuentes, Jr., Michèle Gerber Klein, Pierre Levai, Marcia Levine, and Annabelle & Alberto Mariaca. Fiesta Co-Chairmen were Tony Bechara, Marifé Hernández and Joel Bell, Ann B. Remos, Benigno Rodriguez-Cubenás, Yolanda Santos De Garza, and Adrienne and Gigi Vittadini. Pachanga Chairs included Carolina Alverez – Mathies, Peter Levin, Alexandre Leviant and Gabriel Rivera-Barraza.
Guests included Veronica Anner, Tina Beriro & Simon Beriro, Geoffrey Bradfield, Craig Dix, Sissi Fleitas, Joanna Fisher & Bryan Fisher, Dr. and Mrs. Duane Hampton, William Haseltine, Julie Juarez, Roy Kean, Margo Langenberg, Ed Lavano, Mary McFadden, Haydee Morales (Executive Director of Casita Maria), Mary McFadden, Jose Parla, Ann Rapp, Ben Rodriguez- Cubenas, Christine Schwarzman, Pepita Serrano, Martin & Jean Shafiroff, Hunt Slonem, Barbara & Donald Tober, and Barbara & Bruce Winston.
For more information, visit www.casitamaria.org.