You’ve heard about it and you’ve seen the beautiful photos of the 6th Annual Red Dress Gala in Houston, Texas on Sunday, October 13.  But did you know there was an entire weekend of fun and philanthropic events surrounding this grand occasion?

Access Taken was the theme of the weekend, as CLS celebrated Houston area women and girl rockstar CEOs who are breaking down barriers as pioneers in their respective fields and in building their businesses, brands and nonprofit organizations.  In its quest to strengthen its ties to the City of Houston, CLS debuted its annual fundraiser with a special weekender package.  Attendees who indulged in this package participated in a number of planned activities leading up to the Sunday afternoon Gala.

The adventures of the weekend opened on Friday afternoon, when the ladies picked up a special gift; an Access Taken keepsake bag, adorably personalized with each attendee’s name and containing a hot pink Access Taken tank top and printed weekend itinerary.  And with that…the weekend began!

Friday night Houston lights!  It was an unseasonably chilly evening, but the ladies were warmed by the electric energy of a party!  The Tank Tops, Jeans & Sandals Rooftop Party was in full effect at Lawless Spirits & Kitchen.  Located in the historic Rice Hotel, Lawless is Houston’s most en vogue establishment, boasting a rooftop bar that provides the best show of the Houston sunset in the evening.  The ladies munched on delectable bites, sipped cocktails, greeted each other with smiles all around and mixed and mingled.  It was the perfect groundbreaker for the remaining weekend activities to come.

Up early on Saturday morning, CLS members and guests joined together in a giveback mission to benefit Meals on Wheels of Greater Houston.  The ladies created handcrafted greeting cards for homebound seniors who receive the organization’s delivery services.  This Texas Meals on Wheels program provides home-delivered meals to over 4,400 homebound seniors and disabled adults in five counties – Harris, Galveston, Montgomery, Liberty and Chambers. The program also delivers weekend meals and a week’s worth of breakfast to over 1,100 of the area’s most frail and isolated clients. This nutritional support helps people stay independent and in their own homes.

Since the 1970’s, Meals on Wheels has enlisted the help of volunteers to create greeting cards to deliver to their clients.  For some recipients, the card given to them by Meals on Wheels may be the only birthday or holiday greeting they receive. CLS volunteers created cards depicting autumn scenes, Thanksgiving blessings and December holiday cheer with construction paper, metallic and colored markers and scrapbooking materials.  There was a stunning array of cards on display at the conclusion of the morning’s duties. Those ladies are creative! It was a nice thought to know that each of these cards will put a smile on the face of a senior upon delivery of their Meals on Wheels service. Seasons greetings!

Festive! Beautiful! Charming! Enchanting!  The Pink and Purple Wellness Brunch on Saturday afternoon was a wonderful experience at The Grove restaurant, the definitive see-and-be-seen culinary hotspot in Houston’s urban core. The brunch was held in a sunny room with wall-to-wall/ceiling-to-floor windows!  As the ladies entered, they were met with huge pink, purple, confetti and gold balloons with “Classy Living Society” and “Hello Houston” emblazoned on them. The table decor was stunning! Pink tablecloths and rose gold utensils.   Purple leather handcrafted “vases” containing begonia plants. “Grass” placemats, a topiary ball of greenery and roses as a centerpiece and a pink napkin folded into a rosette. Each attendee was gifted with a keepsake bookmark titled “How to Grow” and a card with a “Wellness Pledge” printed on it.

The ladies wore pink or purple dresses – pink to symbolize harmony and purple to symbolize royalty.  CLS Atlanta member Tara Lambert said it was a “beautiful surprise!” She enjoyed “everything from the restaurant location, the decor and food.  Not to mention how flawless our sisters looked in their pink or purple. Harmony and royalty!”

An informative panel discussion related to women’s health ensued – featuring Atlanta Comedian Lady Q, entrepreneur and CEO of Frugal Chics Roc, Nyota Byfield, and Dr. Glenda Demas, Licensed Professional Counselor and owner of Pearls of Change Wellness, LLC.  There was plenty of informative dialogue about health and wellness related to mind, body and spirit. In the true tradition of fabulous CLS events, the Wellness Brunch was definitely among the most beautiful and elegant events of them all!

CLS Atlanta member Knitra Norwood had this to say about the brunch: “The Pink and Purple Wellness Brunch was a remarkable event.  It was amazingly beautiful to see all of the CLS sisters in their pink and purple dresses commanding their presence, having fun, taking pictures and networking.  The venue was perfect for the occasion, the tables were magnificently decorated with unique treasures for each guest and the food was delish. The overarching purpose of the wellness brunch was to educate, inform and improve the lives of our CLS sisters and community which was apparent.  The topics discussed were extremely relevant to women’s emotional and physical health. The guest panelists did a phenomenal job with sharing and advising in a very open fashion. Access taken! Needless to say, I absolutely enjoyed myself as I always do with my CLS sisters!”

Enthusiasm, excitement that just doesn’t wear off and the love expressed by CLS Houston member, Sabrina General about her experience during Red Dress Gala Weekend is exactly the reason CLS put the Red Dress Gala on the road.  “The Red Dress Gala hosted by the Classy Living Society was nothing short of spectacular!” said Ms. General. “As a fairly new member of CLS Houston, I really didn’t know what to expect, but I can truly say that from Friday through Sunday, I was flabbergasted!  I was overwhelmed at the beautiful sight of exquisite melanin women, from all over the country, loving, praising with accolades and celebrating each other all in the name of one cause: service.” She went on to say that she is still in awe, and enjoyed everything from the volunteer effort to the brunch to the Red Dress Gala, which she deemed to be “one of the most sophisticated events ever!”

In addition to all of these terrific activities, CLS opened its arms to new members in the Houston area.  An overwhelming number of ladies joined during and after the Gala weekend! Membership remains open; please join us!  Visit our website for more information on our organization and for membership information: www.cls-volunteer.org.  To join, click on the “Become a Member” button in the top left corner of the website homepage.  We welcome you!

LaShanda Pitts, Founder of CLS, intimated that “Access Taken” weekend was an exciting opportunity to expand CLS’s reach in the best possible way.  “We are excited to expand our reach by literally giving our mission and vision mobility!  In other words, by traveling to fellowship with sisters during our Red Dress Gala weekends in other cities, such as we did in Houston, we are putting our mission and vision statements into action. We are introducing ourselves by inviting and joining together like-minded women from different locales for a weekend of giving back and social events.”

“It’s a delight and an honor to do this and end on a high note – our biggest event of the year, the Red Dress Gala,” she continued.  “It is an event which truly conveys the genuine mantra of CLS – giving, sisterhood bonding, awareness, recognizing those who are doing great things in the community, having a great time, celebrating health and wellness, meeting new people and leaving different than you came.”  She went on to say that Red Dress Gala weekend events in other cities are on the horizon. “We look forward to upcoming Red Dress Gala weekends! Stay tuned – we could be coming to a city near you!”

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