SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Lifestyle

February 28, 2013

Fashionable friends

Supporters team up to help two homes for women

SALEM — Jeff Gibley is no stranger to fashion shows. So when a friend asked him to participate in “The Art of Dressing” hosted by the Brookhouse Home for Women and the Woman’s Friend Society, he quickly offered the tuxedos from his shop, J. Gibley Tuxedos in Peabody.

“I never really heard of it before this,” Gibley said of the Brookhouse Home.

Once he did, however, he was happy to help support it.

And he feels confident that the show — set for Saturday at the Nathaniel Silsbee House on Washington Square — will be well-attended.

A rest home for seniors, Brookhouse has been providing a home for women for more than 150 years in a red-brick, 1810 mansion that was gifted to charity in 1861. It is one of the few such options in the area for older women of modest means.

For the fashion show, Brookhouse is teaming up with the Woman’s Friend Society, another venerable Salem institution that runs Emmerton House, an affordable home for 20 working women and students, also located in a historic, red-brick mansion.

Despite their related missions, there’s another connection between the two institutions: Eleanor Soucy, 77, a board member and former president of Brookhouse. Soucy was a member of Woman’s Friend before becoming president of the Brookhouse Home in 2006. Her leadership helped form a partnership between the two organizations, as well as bring about major changes to the house.

“I have a lot of compassion for them,” Soucy said. “I didn’t really have patience for the elderly when I first started, but I realized they can be easily forgotten and not appreciated.”

When she stepped into her presidency, Soucy said, Brookhouse was in danger of closing its doors. She and a few other board members brought in women with specific skill sets — lawyers, event planners, etc. — to fill in empty board spots. Afterward, they went to work to try to figure out what was broken.

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