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Business networking group's fashion show raises scholarship funds

By By Trysta Eakin
July 21, 2010 at 2:21 a.m.

VPEN Fashion Model Miranda wears a classic little black dress from Maggie London, with a new twist for the season, ruffles from top to bottom.

What is Victoria Professional Express Network?Victoria Professional Express Network, chartered in 2008, is an affiliate of the American Business Women's Association.

Benefits: Membership provides access to services such as Women's Instructional Network educational tools online, professional development resources, subscription to Women in Business magazine, networking events and guest speakers.

Meetings: Third Wednesday of the each month at the Victoria Country Club from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Luncheon costs $15 for members, $20 for guests.

Who can join: Women who are business owners and business professionals in various occupations looking for networking, business and training opportunities.

For more information: Visit Victoria Professional Express Network on Facebook or e-mail abwa_vpen@yahoo.com.

Show detailsEmcee: Omar Rachid of Rachid Enterprises

Clothing vendors: Rodeo Gypsy, Rendezvous, Blue Sky, JC Penney, The Palm Tree

Hair: JC Penney

Makeup: Arbonne, Fountain of Youth

Auction items: 88 items ranging from fitness, spa and photography services to jewelry, accessories and restaurant gift certificates.

The aroma of perfume and wine swirled Wednesday around the Victoria Country Club as businesswomen from all over the Crossroads gathered for a fashion show.

Hosted by the Victoria Professional Express Network, an affiliate of the American Business Women's Association, the third Annual Showcase of Fashions brought almost 200 women, and a few men, together to enjoy the fashions of five vendors, Rodeo Gypsy, Rendezvous, Blue Sky, JC Penney and The Palm Tree Boutique.

Attendees, comprised of business owners, entrepreneurs and professionals of all kinds, also browsed the tables of the silent auction, a fundraiser that just might benefit them in the future.

"This is the fundraiser for us," said Robin Janecka, the group's soon-to-be vice president of marketing. "We raise money for scholarships like the Stephen Bufton Memorial Educational Fund."

With 88 auction items this year, from health and fitness packages and spa treatments, to fashion and retail gift certificates, the organization hopes to raise $4,000 or more for the scholarship program, she said.

With national scholarships like the Stephen Bufton, the money raised will go to the American Business Women's Association, coming back to the Victoria chapter to help local women when applications come about.

Such an application was accepted this year from Lacey Welfel, a Texas A&M University accounting major.

Welfel, the daughter of Victoria residents Calvin and Debbie Welfel, was awarded $2,000 from the Stephen Bufton Outright Grant, which provides grants for tuition, books and fees to women at the junior level or above at an accredited college or university.

The Victoria Professional Express Network board voted in favor of Welfel in February, making her the first scholarship recipient of this chapter.

"I'm an undergrad right now, but I'm in a professional program, taking graduate classes," Welfel said. "(The scholarship) will help me get my master's in accounting. It will help me finish school and pay my tuition."

She expects to have her bachelor's degree by May, she said, and her master's degree the following year.

Other scholarship options backed by the fashion show proceeds include continuing education funds for members, where Victoria Professional Express Network businesswomen taking classes can turn in their tuition receipts to the board and get reimbursed.

The educational advancement of their fellow members drew these women to the show, along with a handful of guests interested in joining this newly-formed networking group, which Janecka said was chartered in August 2008 with only a few members.

Now, close to three years later, they are "100 ladies strong," she said, and growing by the month, generating interest each year in the fashion show and their lunchtime meetings.

"This is a really fun group. We meet at lunch so there's no time taken away from your family. We give women the opportunity to network; we invite guest speakers to come to each meeting for business-related topics and we give them a chance to expand their business."

With door prizes like gift baskets, gift cards and coupons, as well as the antics from emcee Omar Rachid, the Victoria Country Club was abuzz with excitement, giggling and pocketbooks flying open with each outfit coming down the runway.

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