A celebration of life ceremony is planned in honor of Barbara Dell, founder and former CEO of Dress for Success SW Florida. Dress for Success Worldwide CEO Joi Gordon, Fort Myers Mayor Randy Henderson, Florida House Majority Leader Dane Eagle, and fellow recipients of the Greater Fort Myers Chamber of Commerce Women in Business Apex Awards will be among those in attendance for the event organized by Dell’s family and friends. Guests are encouraged to wear red, white or black, Barbara Dell’s favorite colors, to the celebration on Friday, Feb. 8, at 2 p.m. at the Broadway Palm Dinner Theatre, 1380 Colonial Blvd., Fort Myers.
“Barbara Dell was a passionate advocate for the women in her community,” Gordon said. “She was a true inspiration to the women she served and the global Dress for Success network. She will be missed.”
Dell lost her courageous battle with cancer at age 66 on Jan. 1 while in the care of Hope Hospice. Born in Rochester, New York, on April 7, 1952, Dell had a passion for fashion and people. She owned and operated a successful New York modeling agency, inspiring and empowering countless men and women. After moving to Fort Myers, she continued to work in fashion as the event coordinator with Stein Mart until the Great Recession resulted in the elimination of her job.
Dell was determined to make lemonade out of the lemons she was dealt. Her misfortune led to her discovery of the nonprofit Dress for Success and its mission to empower unemployed or underemployed women. On March 19, 2010, Barbara opened the doors to Dress for Success SW Florida to serve women who were struggling to find employment in Southwest Florida. Barbara greeted each woman who walked through those doors as a long-lost friend and gave them her respect, a smile and a warm hug.
Throughout her eight years of leadership at Dress for Success, Dell impacted and empowered over 2,500 women, many of whom continue to pay it forward by volunteering their time to the organization. Dell was a visionary and always looking for innovative ways to educate, coach and mentor women. She would often take a client under her wing to guide them to success.
Dress for Success Worldwide recognized Dell for her accomplishments, including the launch of the Entrepreneurial Spirit Program, or E$P, which provided women with the tools and confidence to launch their own businesses. Hundreds of women locally have attended these seminars and learned from some of the area’s foremost women in business on topics such as accounting, banking, marketing and business law. Many operate successful companies today.
Dell was nominated for many professional and community awards over the years, but she was especially honored to receive the prestigious Apex Award in 2017 from the Greater Fort Myers Chamber of Commerce Women in Business.
Dell retired in February 2018 to focus on her adoring husband of 33 years, Mel, along with her “fur-baby,” a Yorkshire terrier named Max, and her health. Dell is survived by her two stepchildren, Paul Dell and Lisa (Dell) Deluca. In lieu of flowers, her family requests that donations be made in her name to Dress for Success SW Florida or Hope Hospice.