TOCO’s Herstory fundraiser celebrates women

It’s a celebration of women, but men will have plenty of fun, too.

So says the organizer of Herstory Weekend, a two-night fundraiser for the non-profit group Tapestry of Community Offerings (TOCO) on Friday and Saturday nights.

“It’s a very creative weekend,” said Executive Director Kim Vrooman, 43, of Belleville. “The music is top-notch, and women love the shopping.”

Employees and volunteers at the TOCO resale shop in Belleville have been collecting “high-end” items for a boutique at the fundraiser.

“We’ll have jewelry, clothing and accessories,” Vrooman said. “We’ll also have a silent auction with a ton of great stuff.”

Businesses have donated enough items for about 35 baskets to be auctioned and 35 to be raffled. That includes Disney and Holiday World packages, artwork, wine, jewelry and gift certificates for restaurants and massages.

“There’s a girls night out in St. Louis that is just fantastic,” said TOCO board member Eileen Hoag, 58, of Belleville. “I want to go. I’m bidding on that one.”

TOCO’s mission is to improve the lives of families and children. Herstory Weekend is held in March in conjunction with National Women’s History Month. The fundraiser will take place from 7 p.m. to 1 a.m. Friday and Saturday at Governor French Academy in Belleville. Admission is $12. Food and drinks will be available for purchase.

“(The weekend) is about honoring the women who came before us, the women in our lives and the women we love,” Vrooman said. “Through an inspirational weekend of music and dance, we shine a spotlight on women’s talents and gifts.”

Herstory Weekend proceeds will fund TOCO community programs, including two scholarships to help single parents attend Southwestern Illinois College in Belleville.

“We’ve built (the scholarships) up over the years,” Vrooman said. “They’re now at $1,000 each.”

Musical entertainment will be provided by St. Louis area bands, including Sunny Side Up, The River Kittens, Thea Grace and EarthSol Acoustic on Friday night and Sarah Jane and the Blue Notes and One Take on Saturday night.

Well-known St. Louis blues and soul singer Kim Massie will take the stage at 9 p.m. Saturday, followed by a performance of Aalim Bellydance.

TOCO also will give Making a Difference Awards to five women, including Elizabeth Vega in the arts category, Anetrise C. Jones in education, Geri Boyer in science, technology, engineering and math and Mary Davies and Christina Gibson-Cipfel in social services and philanthropy.

“Every year, we honor women in the community who are doing great things and making a difference,” said Stephanie Betts, 42, of South St. Louis, manager of the TOCO resale shop.

“That lifts everybody up. I don’t think we always know what’s possible until we see other people doing it.”

TOCO volunteers Mary Hart, Joy Hudgins and Heather Roe also will be recognized for community service.

Other Herstory Weekend activities will include Haircuts for Survivors (people donating hair to make wigs for cancer patients) and a Prom Dress Drive for teenage girls.