Fashion Pays it Forward


The Linly Heflin Fashion Show has been providing scholarship money for young women in Alabama for more than 50 years.

The short life of Linly Heflin has created ripples in Birmingham for almost a century. Born in 1887, Linly Heflin became a volunteer when the U.S. entered World War I in 1917 organizing a group of her neighbors into a Red Cross surgical dressing unit known as Unit Number Two. Heflin was the captain of this group. By this time the flu epidemic that was to ravage our country had already begun in Birmingham. In January, Heflin, who was expecting her second child, came down with the flu and died. Her friends and family were devastated.

In 1919 some of the members of the Red Cross unit decided to found a philanthropic organization as a memorial to their dear friend and leader. They changed the name from Unit Number Two to the Linly Heflin Unit. They started to raise money for the memorial by having a Mardi Gras Ball. The next year, they had a huge doll bazaar and another ball. Since its inception in 1919, all work has been done by its volunteer membership, eliminating the need for administrative salaries. It was always the intention of the Unit to keep membership small and today it stands at 125; the membership is limited to 150 members.

The Linly Heflin Scholarship Luncheon and Fashion Show, which was first sponsored by Loveman’s in 1959, continues to be its primary fundraiser. The Pizitz family took over the fashion show in the early 1980s, where Gus Mayer has provided runway fashion for 30 years, from Boutwell Auditorium to the BJCC. In September 2008, the Unit marked its 50th Anniversary and recognized a 25–year partnership with well–known Birmingham clothier Gus Mayer. Throughout its history, over 3,000 scholarships totaling more than $5 million have been awarded to deserving young Alabama women to attend colleges and universities within Alabama.

The 55th Annual Linly Heflin Scholarship Luncheon and Fashion Show fundraiser is set for Wednesday, September 25, 2013, at the Sheraton Birmingham Hotel Civic Center Ballroom. Co-Chairs Elizabeth Hubbard and Sumner Starling announced that Nha Khanh, a fashion firm based in Dallas and New York City and headed by designer Khanh Nguyen, will present its 2013 Fall/Winter Collection at the luncheon. Birmingham clothier Gus Mayer will again partner with the Linly Heflin Unit and provide additional fashions. Last year’s luncheon and fashion show was attended by more than a thousand guests.

A Linly Heflin Family Story

The Linly Heflin Unit has a motto: “Educate a woman and you educate a family.” My life story is a testament to the truth of that statement. To understand my belief in the Linly Heflin mission, you need to know a bit about my family history. My father, Steve Doss, is the son of Raymond Doss (my “Papaw Raymond”), who grew up near Morris, Ala. with his eight siblings. When Papaw Raymond was 12 years old, his father was murdered, leaving his children and their widowed mother to struggle through the Great Depression alone. At the age of 16 years, Papaw Raymond “fudged” about his age and made his way into the United States Navy to serve our country alongside his brothers in World War II. After returning home from the war, Papaw Raymond became an iron worker and had a long career out of the iron workers local union in Birmingham, where he performed services over the years for companies including U.S. Steel and Alabama Power.

My father was born to Papaw Raymond and his wife, Mary, in 1957, and was brought up in Fultondale. My father dreamed of attending the University of Alabama and was interested in becoming an architect. His teenage romance with my mother, Donna, led to an unexpected event, the expectancy of me when he was only 16 years old. At the time, my mother had just passed her 15th birthday, but already had dreams of becoming a nurse or a teacher. She was one of 10 children from Walker County. Her mother, Lena Mae Cole, who was also one of 10 children born in Walker County, had completed only the 6th grade and gave birth to her first child at the age of 14.  Her father, Sam Cole, one of 8 children, had completed the 8th grade before spending his life working as a carpenter. There were no alternative school options or any other means for my mother to continue with school while pregnant with me, so two weeks into the 10th grade, she dropped out and later obtained her General Education Diploma. Despite the difficulties of her situation, my mother tells me that she was happy (but scared) to become my mama.

Mama and Daddy took on the responsibility of preparing for my arrival by getting married and renting a garage apartment in Tarrant. He continued with high school during the day and simultaneously worked at Jack’s full time at night, bringing home $77 per week. She was not yet old enough to obtain a driver’s license, even if there had been a car available for her to drive. I was born in April of 1975 and took a bottle in Mama’s arms while attending Daddy’s high school graduation in June. After that, Daddy continued working full time, got into an apprenticeship program, and eventually became a licensed electrician, while Mama worked at home, caring for and teaching me.

My family lived without a lot of material things and services when I was growing up, but as a child I was mostly unaware of our poverty. Tremendous sacrifices were made by my folks to ensure that I felt as little of it as possible. Now that I am a parent, I cannot fathom the pain it must have caused my parents to persevere through those moments. Through grit, hard work, tremendous self-discipline, and strength of character, my parents worked and saved their way over the years into the middle class. They were so determined that my life course would turn out differently than theirs. One thing they instilled in me from the earliest of ages was the importance of my education.  They understood education was the key to opportunity.

Naturally a people-pleaser, I worked hard to make my parents and teachers proud. My parents genuinely believed I had the potential to achieve anything I set my mind to doing. Because they believed in me, I grew up with extraordinary confidence that probably surpassed my actual abilities. My two sisters (6 and 10 years younger than I am) were brought up with the same encouragement and expectations. As I neared the end of high school, what I did not know was that my parents secretly worried that high achievement and confidence alone could not pay for my opportunity to go to college. They encouraged me to apply for all possible scholarships and financial aid. My high school counselor, Mrs. MaryLou Overby, gave me an application for the Linly Heflin scholarship.

I will never forget the day of my Linly Heflin interview. Daddy drove me (from rural Blount County where we moved when I was 10 years old) to the appointment in downtown Birmingham, but got the location wrong at first and worried we would be late and that I would lose the opportunity as a result. He did not want anything to stand in the way of my success. In the ensuing weeks, as college acceptance letters and other correspondence for me began to come in the daily mail, Daddy made a habit of opening my mail for me in his excitement.  I will always remember his walking into the gymnasium at my school, carrying the envelope announcing my Linly Heflin scholarship, and the tears and hug we shared in that moment. Because of the generosity of those who gave to the Linly Heflin Unit, as well as the generosity of others who were responsible for other academic scholarships I received, I was able to attend the University of Alabama (B.A. 1997) and later the Cumberland School of Law at Samford University (J.D. 2000) before becoming a licensed attorney in Alabama in the year 2000.

During my years as a “Linly Heflin Girl” at Alabama, I benefitted not only from the financial assistance, but also from the interaction with members of the Linly Heflin Unit. Each year, several members made a point of taking all the Linly Heflin Girls out to a fancy spoon-bread lunch at the University Club. They dined with us over white tablecloths and fine silver and inquired about our classes, our dreams, our goals. They made me feel as if I belonged with them.

While I was in college, my mama went back to school herself and achieved a degree in Early Childhood Education. Both of my sisters later attended college, becoming registered nurses. The youngest has gone on to become a nurse anesthetist and has recently been accepted into a doctorate program in her field. My daddy is a master electrician, who now supervises hospital maintenance at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. In 2011, after engaging in the private practice of law for 11 years, I had the great fortune to move “in-house” to work for the Southern Company, here in Birmingham at the Alabama Power Company headquarters. A few years back, I took the opportunity to speak at the 52nd Annual Linly Heflin fashion show fundraiser sponsored by Gus Mayer and share my family’s story as a demonstration of the truth of the Linly Heflin mission. Truly, if you educate one young woman, you can change the course of an entire family.

–written by Khristi Doss Driver

Happy Anthony Primarily a homemaker, Happy Anthony also works as a substitute teacher and is heavily involved in the Linly Heflin organization. This year she is scholarship committee co-chair, serving with chairman Caroline Thomas. From a pool of about 200 to 300 applications, Linly Heflin was able to fund 30 scholarships last year. Currently 94 young women are attending college with the help of Linly Heflin.

Happy Anthony
Primarily a homemaker, Happy Anthony also works as a substitute teacher and is heavily involved in the Linly Heflin organization. This year she is scholarship committee co-chair, serving with chairman Caroline Thomas. From a pool of about 200 to 300 applications, Linly Heflin was able to fund 30 scholarships last year. Currently 94 young women are attending college with the help of Linly Heflin.

Khristi Doss Driver Khristi Doss Driver is a managing attorney in the Legal Department of Southern Company Services.  She is happily married to Joe Driver, also an attorney, and they live in Hoover with their two beautiful children, Steven (8) and Sophia (3).

Khristi Doss Driver
Khristi Doss Driver is a managing attorney in the Legal Department of Southern Company Services. She is happily married to Joe Driver, also an attorney, and they live in Hoover with their two beautiful children, Steven (8) and Sophia (3).

Dr. Amy Fineburg, Ph.D. A Linly Heflin Scholarship recipient, Dr. Fineburg has positively affected the lives of thousands of students and teachers in Alabama and across the country. She has established standards for teaching high school psychology that are used all over the nation. A graduate of Samford University, Dr. Fineburg received a Ph.D. in educational psychology from the University of Alabama in 2010.

Dr. Amy Fineburg, Ph.D.
A Linly Heflin Scholarship recipient, Dr. Fineburg has positively affected the lives of thousands of students and teachers in Alabama and across the country. She has established standards for teaching high school psychology that are used all over the nation. A graduate of Samford University, Dr. Fineburg received a Ph.D. in educational psychology from the University of Alabama in 2010.

Amy Maddox Amy felt from some of her earliest years that she was born to be a teacher. Through the help of scholarship money from Linly Heflin, she was able to attend and graduate from the University of North Alabama in Florence. A dedicated and well-loved teacher at Vestavia Hills High School, Amy was awarded the National Outstanding Teacher Award by the Daughters of the American Revolution.

Amy Maddox
Amy felt from some of her earliest years that she was born to be a teacher. Through the help of scholarship money from Linly Heflin, she was able to attend and graduate from the University of North Alabama in Florence. A dedicated and well-loved teacher at Vestavia Hills High School, Amy was awarded the National Outstanding Teacher Award by the Daughters of the American Revolution.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Gus Mayer Fashion Show

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gus Mayer and Linly Heflin

Gus Mayer and Linly Heflin

For three decades, Gus Mayer has been coordinating and implementing the highest level of fashion shows for Linly Heflin, which has been instrumental in raising multiple yearly scholarships to help educate woman in our community. Bringing in top-tier designers such as Lourdes Chavez, Hilton Hollis, Gustavo Cadile, Dianaira, Shalini and this year’s designer, Nha Khanh, has been a continuous yearly affair of high fashion, service and support.

“Gus Mayer is a proud supporter of the Linly Heflin Unit. Our partnership with the Linly Heflin Unit over the past 25–plus years continues to strengthen each year. In supporting this organization, it is rewarding to see the impact that Linly Heflin and its members make on young women and their futures. The scholarship money that is raised provides these young women with a chance to succeed and forever change their lives and others. From this program, we have seen women prosper and succeed to later make an impact in the lives of others. Gus Mayer’s involvement delivers the fashions to entertain, allowing the organization to feel free to provide the opportunity to change lives.” —Jeff Pizitz, President of Pizitz Management Group

This year’s runway show will take you to the fashion capital of the world, New York City, as The Sheraton’s Birmingham Ballroom is transformed into an industrial warehouse from the streets of Manhattan. Gus Mayer’s hottest trends for fall will rock the runway on September 25, including menswear–inspired fabrics for day and minimal tuxedo silhouettes for evening.

Nha Khanh, the featured designer, will show off her love for balance in nature and architecture. The organic, yet structured designs portray the creations of the universe versus those that are man made. Wool garments, embellished necklines, and sophisticated peplums take over the runway to inspire modern, feminine style with a cool, sophisticated vibe. Immediately following the runway show, you will be able to purchase your favorite pieces from Nha Khanh at Gus Mayer at The Summit. Tickets are $50. Contact 205-871-8171 or www.linlyheflin.org.

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