On The Avenue

See Liz. See Liz Raise Money.

by Michael Gross Photographed by Benjamin Lozovsky and Madison/BFA
Thursday, May 25, 2017
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The Michael’s lunch bunch came out in force last night at the Literacy Partners Evening of Readings & Gala Dinner Dance at Cipriani 42nd Street. The black-tie event, which honored CNN Host Fareed Zakaria, HBO documentarian Sheila Nevins, USA TODAY Editor-in-Chief Joanne Lipman, and longtime Literacy Partners board member John Josephson, and included readings from Jill Kargman and Nevins, raised $1 million to further the organization’s mission to promote family literacy.

Formed in 1973 as Literacy Volunteers of New York City, the organization gained national prominence and fundraising clout after gossip columnist Liz Smith joined its board a decade later. In 1986, she attracted the dressmaker Arnold Scaasi and his business and life partner Parker Ladd to the board. The latter organized its first gala that year. By 1991, the event was bringing in half a million dollars a year. In 2012, it gave its first Lizzie lifetime achievement award to Smith.

This year, Josephson was honored with the Champion of Literacy Award. Nevins, President of HBO Documentary Films, was also honored at the event with The Lizzie Award, which is given to an individual who exemplifies Liz Smith’s passion for the written word and her commitment to improving the lives of those who cannot read or write. Nevins read a passage from her new and much buzzed about book, You Don’t Look Your Age…and other Fairy Tales. Literacy Partners student Marchette Hellams shared her story of overcoming adversity and how Literacy Partners changed her life. Later, Hellams brought the crowd to their feet with her moving rendition of Patti LaBelle’s “Winner in You”. The Co-Chairs for the Gala were Katharine Raymond Hinton, Mike Steib, Courtney L. Corleto, and Smith. Maurice DuBois served as emcee.

Guests included Kargman’s parents and sibling, Arie and Coco Kopelman and Will Kopelman, Elizabeth Peabody, Katie Couric, Alina Cho, Mike Steib, Les Hinton, Katharine Raymond Hinton, Courtney L. Corleto, Jackie Weld Drake, William Norwich, David Patrick Columbia, and Peter Brown, the Michael’s mainstay who first gained renown when, as the assistant to Beatles manager Brian Epstein, he told John Lennon and Yoko Ono they could, in Lennon’s words, “get married in Gibralter in Spain.”

Though Christ knows it ain’t easy, Literacy Partners has provided critical literacy services to more than 25,000 New York City adults and their families since its inception. The organization now takes a dual-generation approach to education, focusing on parents of young children. With free classes throughout the city, parents can improve their reading, writing, and English skills while learning more about child development to boost their children’s early learning and school readiness.


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