Jacqueline Weld Drake warmly welcomed friends and supporters to Charity Gala New York event Casita Maria’s annual Fiesta Gala held at the iconic Plaza Hotel on a memorable Tuesday night. This exquisite event, often hailed as one of the best soirées in New York City, was a celebration of unity, growth, and philanthropy.
In her heartfelt address, Jacqueline, or Jackie as she’s affectionately known, expressed her joy at seeing familiar faces and welcoming new ones into the Casita Maria family. Her words resonated with a deep sense of gratitude for the evening’s co-chairs, including the distinguished HRH Prince Dimitri of Yugoslavia, George Corton, Darlyn Portes, Sissi Fleitas, Lydia Forbes, Thomas C. Quick, and Jean Shafiroff. She also extended a special salute and thanks to Felix Urrutia Jr., the organization’s newly appointed Executive Director.
The gala attendees, dressed to the nines in their black-tie attire, danced the night away to the enchanting music of Bob Hardwick and his orchestra. The tropical-themed décor, meticulously designed by Full Moon, transported guests to a world of vibrant colors and vivacious energy. As is tradition, Mary Snow, elegantly adorned in head-to-toe red lace, played host to the largest table in the room, surrounded by dear friends such as Consuelo Vanderbilt Costin, Laura and Diego Garcia, Alexandra Lind Rose, Lesley Schulhof, and Marie Louise Slocum.
Adding a profound sense of purpose to the evening, Felix Urrutia Jr. emphasized the critical role Casita Maria plays in the lives of the South Bronx community. He highlighted the daily challenges faced by families in need and underscored the organization’s mission to provide essential support, affirmation, and love. With the unwavering support of generous individuals like those present, Casita Maria could fulfill its promise as responsible stewards of hope and transformation.
The gala also served as an occasion to honor outstanding individuals committed to making a positive impact. Grammy Winning Producer Nelson J. Albareda, former U.S. Ambassador to Morocco David Fischer and his philanthropic wife Jennifer Fischer, and SOMOS Community Care Founder Dr. Ramon Tallaj were recognized for their exemplary contributions. Jennifer Fischer shared heartfelt sentiments, emphasizing the profound belief in the importance of children’s futures. Nelson J. Albareda celebrated the groundbreaking work Casita Maria does in empowering the Latino community.
The esteemed guest list featured dedicated Board Members and Trustees, including Martha Bograd, Miguel A. Fuentes Jr., Michéle Gerber Klein, Patrick Moran, Gautam Patel, Benigno Rodriguez-Cubeñas, and many others who joined in the evening’s festivities.
Casita Maria stands as a beacon of hope and transformation, nurturing a safe and inclusive community. Their mission is to empower youth and families through enriching cultural, artistic, and educational experiences and programs. Established in 1934 by Claire and Elizabeth Sullivan, Casita Maria has a rich history of serving Latinos in New York City, offering after-school enrichment and recreational activities to newly arrived families from Puerto Rico. Today, the organization continues to be a source of support and inspiration for the predominantly Latino youth and families in the Hunts Point community of the Bronx.
In 2009, Casita Maria achieved a significant milestone with the inauguration of a state-of-the-art facility on its Simpson Street campus, covering 90,000 square feet across six stories. This collaboration with the Department of Education has expanded Casita Maria’s capacity to shine as a beacon of excellence, offering performance spaces, exhibition galleries, dance and music studios, and more.
Photo Credits – Jared Siskin & Dave Kotinsky