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Unity in Uniform: Orlando’s Heroes Create a New Future for Youth (with Fashion)


by Mellissa Thomas


Unity in Uniform, Inc. logo

Imagine an organization in which all your local heroes team up to lift youths out of the pit of grim statistical fate by training them in the medical, nursing, and emergency response fields. While there are non-profits with volunteers in one or two of those fields (like the Police Athletic League, for example), local UIU Director of Public Relations Vanessa Butlernon-profit Unity in Uniform, Inc. galvanizes firefighters, local police, emergency medical technicians (EMTs), nurses, and other “uniformed professionals” as its Public Relations Director Vanessa Butler (at right) says.

Now, imagine all those people…walking a catwalk.

Yes, you read that right. And it happens every year, with proceeds benefiting not only the organization’s cause, but breast cancer awareness, too — to the tune of over $3,000 to date.

Who said fashion can’t make a difference?


This Year’s Show

Unity in Uniform’s fourth annual fashion show, the 4th Alarm Fashion Show, returns Saturday, October 19, 2013, at the Wyndham Orlando Resort on International Drive at 7 p.m. General admission is $30, VIP tickets are $50.

So, why that name? “Firefighters always go by an alarm,” Butler explained in a recent interview with DOFW. “So we’ve named the show in succession.”

UIU 4th Alarm Fashion Show t-shirts

The annual Alarm Fashion Show tees are redesigned each year by one of UIU’s firefighters, who is a designer. The tees are sold up until the show and always sell out at the show. This year’s 4th Alarm Fashion show tees (above) are still available.

The fashion show not only features Orlando’s heroes strutting their stuff on the runway, but also recognizes breast cancer survivors, giving them an unforgettably glamorous night — literally. Survivors are given the full model treatment: luxurious hair and makeup work, Orlando’s finest clothes and jewelry, flashing lights and cameras, their own walk down the runway, and all the adulation that comes with it.

If you’re itching to get the party started before then, the free 4th Alarm Fashion Show Press Party, “Jazz in the Clouds,” happens next Friday, October 11, 2013 at 121 S. Orange Avenue (16th floor, Penthouse, North Plaza) from 5:30 p.m. – 8:30 p.m. Attendees will get a 4th Alarm Fashion Show sneak peak and enjoy live jazz, art displays, cocktails, hors d’oeuvres, and a breathtaking 360-degree view of downtown Orlando.

The event is a joint venture with Elevate Orlando Entertainment.

Want in? You’ll need to RSVP at elevateorlando@icloud.com (RE: UIU 4th Alarm) and bring a generous donation. Here’s the Unity In Uniform 2013 Press Party Press Release.


Unity’s Genesis

Unity in Uniform, Inc. was actually born from a fashion show.

(You don’t have to take our word for it, though — watch the video.)

Two gentlemen, Roderick Waisome, a firefighter with Orlando International Airport Fire-Rescue, and his uncle (also a firefighter), attended a conference in Jacksonville that included a fashion show that wasn’t for any particular cause, but just for fun. They were so inspired, they decided they would do the same thing in Orlando.UIU Associate Director Stacey Brown

“Hezedean [Smith] came to me and said, ‘we want to do a fashion show here in Orlando’,” UIU’s Associate Director Stacey Brown (at right) recalled. According to her, Mr. Smith, who would become Unity in Uniform’s Executive Director, approached her for her knowledge of fashion shows.

She and Butler revealed the inaugural fashion show in 2009, held at Rain Ultra Lounge on Kirkman Road, was produced under another non-profit entity, but the show was such a success, the team that produced it decided it would be an annual tradition, and formed what has become Unity in Uniform, Inc., a 501(c)(3) non-profit whose mission is offering children mentoring and preparatory training to foster a career in the emergency services and allied health fields.


Walking it Out

UIU offers a special annual program for the city’s youth, funded by a state grant. In 2012, it was their EMT program, funded by the City of Orlando Mayor’s Match Grant. This year the organization successfully received the grant again, and launches its EMR (emergency medical responder) program in mid-October, training ten to fifteen high school students in healthcare and EMT skills. They’ll attend afterschool and weekend sessions involving Powerpoint presentations, lectures, and hands-on simulations from technicians in these industries.

The organization also offers adults in the emergency services and allied health fields financial assistance through its annual scholarship. According to its 2014 Sponsorship package, it has contributed over $2,000 in scholarships to adults in EMS training.

Furthermore, Brown and Butler explained the organization is involved in community health fairs and events all over Orlando, including Take Your Loved One to the Doctor Day, offering free EKG, blood pressure, and various other health screenings; back-to-school backpack drives, and high school Career Days, opening students’ eyes to a fulfilling career in serving, saving, and enriching others’ lives.


UIU Needs You

“People from the U.S. Postal Service [and military veterans] can be members,” Associate Director Stacey Brown said. Brown and Butler welcome anyone who wants to make a difference in people’s lives. “Even if you’re a businessperson, I’m sure that’s a different kind of uniform,” Brown said, laughing.

UIU’s annual golf tournament, which raises money for prostate cancer awareness, is actually on hiatus in light of the organization’s need for more people. Both explained that UIU’s goal is to grow large enough to support both events and cover its daily operating costs as well.

Brown gave meaning to the organization’s sense of urgency. In her current job with Orlando Health, she reaches out to high school students in underprivileged communities to better educate them on the medical employment process. “Kids don’t always realize that what they do stops them,” she said. She went on to explain that the Board of Nursing requires a clean record — no criminal offenses, no misconduct.

She even provided this staggering example: District 5 Commissioner Daisy Lynum wanted to launch a no-cost one-year LPN program in the community to help the unemployed. The very first criterion was the presence of a criminal record. That requirement alone shred the nearly 500-applicant pool by over 300 people (that’s sixty percent!).

Brown’s goal is to ultimately capture the students from middle school “so they know ahead of time what to do.”

Butler, who previously worked with Central Florida United Way for seven years aiding in the fund distribution process for youth, added that the organization helps provide the youth with options. “Nursing is a long term education, while the EMT training program is less than a year.”

Want to make a difference in Orlando and have fun while you’re at it? The 4th Alarm Fashion Show Press Party and Fashion Show are calling your name.


Images and video courtesy of www.unityinuniform.org. Press party press release furnished by Vanessa Butler.



Mellissa Thomas headshotAbout the Author:
Downtown Orlando Fashion Week Chief Editor Mellissa Thomas is a Jamaica-born writer. She’s a decorated U.S. Navy veteran with Entertainment Business Masters and Film Bachelors degrees from Full Sail University in Winter Park, FL.

She’s currently available for hire, writing content for websites, blogs, and marketing material. She also writes poetry, screenplays, and ghostwrites books.

She has published three books, all available on Amazon.com, with her fourth, “Faded Diamonds”, set to release on Amazon.com and all digital devices in early January 2014.



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