Rain didn’t dampen the crowd’s spirits at the second annual Almost Home gala, hosted at the Busch Mansion. On the heels of last year’s inaugural event, which was intended as more of a ‘friendraiser,’ approximately $11,800 was raised, says executive director Rhonda Gray. The funds support the nonprofit’s mission of helping teenage mothers through a transitional housing program, as well as providing education and counseling for the young women who live at its facility.

The Busch Mansion, which was also last year’s venue, was chosen at the suggestion of hostess and longtime supporter Trudy Busch-Valentine, Gray notes. More than 100 guests enjoyed cocktails, hors d’ouvres and live music from the Rosewood Ensemble, along with a program that included remarks by honorees Berneshia Dorris and Danise Taylor.

Taylor became a mother at 16, but was able to overcome high odds to eventually become a financial analyst coordinator at Edward Jones. Dorris came to Almost Home as a young mother in May 2011, and recently transitioned to permanent housing. She is a junior of University of Missouri—St. Louis and found a job at Saint Louis Public Library. “Their stories were so compelling and authentic, as they shared the challenges and barriers and how they’ve overcome those things,” Gray says.

Another highlight was an address by Busch-Valentine, she adds. “She talked about when you have to overcome obstacles—which she’s had to do—about needing people to encourage you and rally around you.”

The evening also kicked off the celebration for Almost Home’s 20th anniversary next year, Gray adds, along with the nonprofit’s Inspired by Women campaign. “We want to introduce as many women as possible to Almost Home—to expose the girls to women in the community who are doing dynamic things, so they can see what’s possible for them.”