Had she been out shopping for clothes, Therese Fitzpatrick never would have chosen the dress. It was a sexier outfit than what the working mom typically wore, but with a few encouraging words and a reminder that it was all for charity, Fitzpatrick strutted with the best of them during an annual fashion show to benefit the St. Bernardine Women’s Club.

“I was very nervous,” she said of gallivanting before a crowd of more than 200. “It was very nerve wracking.”

Fitzpatrick and her daughter, Olivia Mott, an eighth-grader, recently joined roughly a dozen other women from the church parish to help stage what has become the club’s largest annual fundraiser. For more than 80 years the women’s club has been collecting money to help both the church and its K-8 school located on Harrison Street. This year’s event, held April 24 at the Crystal Sky Banquets in McCook, netted some $6,000, according to an event organizer.

“Whatever we’ve done has directly affected the parish or the school,” Lisa Gill, the club’s treasurer, said.

In years past, the organization has helped purchase a sound system and new curtains for the school, said Gill. Members have also put the money toward landscaping improvements outside of the church, furnishings for the altar and a fresh coat of paint in the school hallways.

Like many churches in the area, the women’s club has seen a dip in its numbers from 15 or 20 years ago, so to cope with the downturn Gill and other group members began promoting the fashion show as a chance for mothers and daughters to enjoy a girls’ night out. The event always features a local dress shop and includes dinner and drinks beforehand. Bottega M in Oak Park was the outfitter for this year’s show and employees there met with the models several days prior to the big night.

Fitzpatrick, who lives in Forest Park with her family, has attended a number of fashion shows sponsored by the women’s club, but didn’t think to participate until she was asked this year. With a little arm twisting from a friend in the church she decided to join, and said she had a blast getting all dolled up. Her daughter on the other hand, needed no prodding and jumped at the opportunity.

“She thought it would be great,” Fitzpatrick said.

Fitzpatrick’s younger daughter, a seventh-grader, also attended and got a kick out of spending a very adult evening with her friends at their own table.

“It was a no-brainer to make this a mother-daughter thing,” Gill said. “The girls really enjoy it. They get all dressed up.”

Rev. Patrick Tucker, meanwhile, said he is working on a wish list of sorts to help the women’s club allocate the funding. For years, the pastor said, the group has provided not only financial support to the church but also serves as a social outlet for parishioners. It’s always helpful too, he said, when the church can find new ways to integrate itself into the community.

“They’re very helpful whenever the pastor needs some advice or baked goodies or pretty much anything,” Tucker said. “They keep us looking good.”