Faith and fashion fuse in benefit vintage clothing show

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Evelyn Rinaldi, 16 of Naugatuck, is organizing a vintage fashion show to benefit Acts 4 Ministry, which provides clothing, food and furniture to low income families and shelters in the greater Waterbury area. –RA ARCHIVE

NAUGATUCK — Her work is a union of faith and fashion, fueled by a deep desire to serve those in need.

Evelyn Rinaldi has spent the past several months organizing Runway Down Memory Lane, a vintage fashion show to benefit Acts 4 Ministry. She lined up all the models, chose the clothing, even found a location for the event.

And she’s only 16.

“She is really single-handedly putting this together,” said Laura Coffin, head of Acts 4. “It really is an executive director’s dream to have such an initiative-taking volunteer.”

Coffin and Rinaldi first met at the Cornerstone Church in Cheshire, where they both attend services, and where Rinaldi is a member of the youth group. That group later did some volunteer work for Acts 4.

“I just enjoyed working with their cause so much, I became a regular volunteer, working in their office on a weekly basis,” Rinaldi said.

She said Acts 4, which provides clothing and furniture to the needy in greater Waterbury, “just kind of hit home” because a number of her classmates at Naugatuck High School come from low-income families who are served by that group.

“You end up seeing the same groups of people volunteering and you see the same families at giveaway events,” she said. “It becomes a community. Everybody helps everybody out. I just really appreciated that.”

After she began working part-time at the Little Black Dress vintage clothing store in the borough, she said, she had the idea to organize a benefit fashion show.

She recruited teens from Waterbury and Wolcott, as well as some of her classmates, to be models.

Evelyn Rinaldi, 16 of Naugatuck holds a 1970's 7-layer wedding gown, outside of Little Black Dress Vintage clothing store in Naguatuck. Rinaldi is organizing a vintage fashion show to benefit Acts 4 Ministry, which provides clothing, food and furniture to low income families and shelters in the greater Waterbury area. –RA ARCHIVE

“At first my mother was a little reluctant to let me do it because it’s going to be a big show. We’re expecting 250 to 300 people to attend,” she said. “Now they’re very, very supportive. My mother and father are helping in every way and my younger brother is selling tickets at his school. Everybody’s kind of pushing me forward and encouraging me. I’m very blessed to have a helping family.”

And Coffin said she’s encouraged by Rinaldi.

“It’s unprecedented for us to have someone her age doing what she’s doing; she’s really a shining star among young people,” Coffin said, adding that Rinaldi has also arranged for raffle prizes, is doing all of the event’s publicity and even made the tickets.

“I know she just believes in what we’re doing and this is a way she can give that she enjoys,” Coffin said. “She obviously believes in the cause and understands why we’re doing what we’re doing; that it’s something we’re called to do as Christians, to help out with our neighbors. She gets it.”

Rinaldi said she also benefits from her own efforts.

“In the Christian faith, our goal is to spread the love of Christ with other people, so this is a direct correlation with my faith — ministering to them and allowing their gratefulness to minister back to me,” she said. “In the end, that’s really why you volunteer — to see the smiles and joy it brings to people.”

Runway Down Memory Lane will be held April 28 from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Little Black Dress Vintage Boutique, 203 Church St. Tickets are $10 for adults and $8 for high school students. For more information or tickets, call Evelyn at (203) 598 4853 or Little Black Dress at (203) 729 0360.