The 2013 Inspiring Women Benefit Gala will take place on Saturday, Nov. 9 at the Gannet Company, Inc. Headquarters Building in McLean, Va. The gala supports the reduced and sliding fee scale counseling, educational programs and resources The Women’s Center offers to women and families who otherwise could not afford them.
The event brings nearly 400 business and community leaders, as well as government officials, together for a one-of-a-kind evening that includes both a silent and live auction. This year’s black-tie will be emceed by WJLA-TV lead co-anchor, Maureen Bunyan.
WashingtonExec recently sat down with the benefit co-chair, Nicole Geller, CEO of GCS, Inc., to discuss the upcoming event and her personal connection to The Women’s Center and its noble mission.
WashingtonExec: How did you become involved with the Inspiring Women Benefit Gala and The Women’s Center?
Nicole Geller: I became involved with The Women’s Center because I was a client of theirs when I was in my early 20’s. I was lucky enough to find out about The Women’s Center and I needed some help with grief and bereavement after my mother passed away. I was in college at the time and didn’t know where to go for that kind of help. After I learned about The Center and worked with them for a while, they helped me get on a great path, and I never forgot that.
After starting my company, GCS, I reconnected with The Women’s Center. I wanted to connect with a charity and The Women’s Center was at the top of my list. I worked on the gala last year and I am co-chair of this year’s gala committee. I also joined the Board of The Women’s Center last October. I do quite a bit with The Center and am delighted to work with the gala committee—it’s a great team of executive level women who volunteer their time to support The Center.
“After I learned about The Center and worked with them for a while, they helped me get on a great path, and I never forgot that.”
WashingtonExec: It’s safe to say that this benefit is important to you for personal reasons.
Nicole Geller: Very much so for personal reasons – I can honestly say that I am one of The Women’s Center success stories. I have never forgotten how they helped me. Once I decided that I wanted to give back to the community, The Center was the absolutely the first organization that I contacted.
“With their holistic approach, The Center is what they call a ‘one stop shop’ for community folks who may be facing divorce and separation, lay-offs, unemployment, furloughs, depression, anxiety, trauma, or domestic violence.”
WashingtonExec: How would you describe the mission of this charity? Is this the biggest fundraiser for the Women’s Center?
Nicole Geller: The Center really makes a difference in the lives of women, men and children every day. The Center is a place where people can turn to when they need help in coping with life’s crisis, challenges, transitions and transformations. The gala is the single biggest fundraiser for The Center to help fund their important work, and make sure services stay accessible for all.
I can share some stories from people who have benefited from The Women’s Center. The Center changed their lives. For this particular individual, they felt they would have been lost without The Center. Other comments I’ve heard are that The Center helped keep their family together and another person commented that The Center helped them get out of an abusive relationship.
The other thing that I would say about what makes The Women’s Center unique is that there are 65 part-time therapists who are wonderful. The Center’s counselors have expertise in areas from eating disorders to geriatric mental health and everything in between. It’s a pretty extensive range of counseling available, so you can almost always get in to see someone who specializes in your issue in just a few days.
In addition to that, they also do career counseling, financial literacy training, financial counseling, mediation as an alternative for divorce, family and career workshops, victim advocacy and support for domestic violence and sexual assault survivors, leadership development for women and professional development and networking for women. They work with women, men, teen, children and families. With their holistic approach, The Center is what they call a ‘one stop shop’ for community folks who may be facing divorce and separation, lay-offs, unemployment, furloughs, depression, anxiety, trauma, or domestic violence.
WashingtonExec: What can attendees of the event look forward to?
Nicole Geller: It’s a feel good, do good event. From the fundraising side, we have a fantastic silent auction with an array of unique items and services to all kinds of fun, experiential packages to bid on. Some silent auction items include a local resort stay, Kennedy Center tickets package, restaurant and fun sporting events. In the live auction, we have a Wizards box for 18 of your best friends, Florida vacation, Grand Slam golf and – of course- and a chef dinner where you can invite a bunch of your closest friends for a great, warm, intimate evening. It’s a great way for a lot of different companies and community people to connect and show support for The Center.
“The funds raised help keep counseling services accessible for everyone. The Women’s Center offers a sliding fee scale to those who can’t afford full fee or don’t have insurance coverage for mental health services.”
WashingtonExec: Last year the gala raised over $300,000. Do you have a fundraising target this year?
Nicole Geller: Yes, the goal is a little more than last year. We’ve already raised $230,000, which is fantastic for this year, and we would like to raise another $90,000 from the event to beat our goal. We’ve raised 100% of our sponsorship goal, but we want to exceed that goal, so we are still seeking sponsors. Table sponsorships run from $1,500 to $30,000, and this year we have two $30,000 sponsors—AT&T and a very generous individual donor.
Tickets to the event are still available, and companies and individuals can still donate as well. I’m confident we will meet and even exceed our 2013 goal.
WashingtonExec: Where exactly does the money raised go?
Nicole Geller: The funds raised help keep counseling services accessible for everyone. The Women’s Center offers a sliding fee scale to those who can’t afford full fee or don’t have insurance coverage for mental health services. That fee scale can range from $5 a session to $45 a session so these funds help everyone in need access high quality, affordable and essential mental health counseling.