2010 Local Heroes: Rosa Alvarez
Click here to read the profiles of our other Local Heroes for 2010. The full-support model By Monica Duncan, Photography by Pete Paterson “I started studying belly dance and Argentinian tango at forty,” says Rosa Alvarez. “The instructor offered me my money back and told me I was the worst student she ever had.” But…
The full-support model
By Monica Duncan, Photography by Pete Paterson
“I started studying belly dance and Argentinian tango at forty,” says Rosa Alvarez. “The instructor offered me my money back and told me I was the worst student she ever had.”
But Rosa is an “I’ll show them” kind of woman. One year later she joined her teacher’s dance troupe.
Now a dance teacher herself, the owner of Mille Notte Lingerie boutique in Bolton, founder and chief executive officer of the Caledon Breast Cancer Foundation, and originator of the Pink Tie Gala – the foundation’s annual fundraiser – Rosa exudes a quiet but diamond bright resilience. It’s the kind of energy that gets her through the whirlwind season of organizing each year’s gala. It’s a choreography of planning that resulted in this fall’s third annual gala raising about $30,000 towards serving the foundation’s objectives.
Now 56, Rosa became involved with the breast cancer cause years ago when she was employed as a financial advisor and actively promoted an aware-ness campaign for the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation in her workplace.
Later on, as a lingerie store proprietor, she was drawn in on a more personal level. Women were coming to Rosa and complaining that fitting for breast prostheses was a depressing process often relegated to a store’s closet or washroom and, although “certified,” too many fitters lacked the sensitivity to protect patient privacy. Even more distressing, some of her customers who needed prostheses couldn’t afford them.
Rosa naturally considered acquiring fitter’s credentials, but a required 200 hour apprenticeship wasn’t available. Then Rosa lost a young customer to breast cancer, and her resolve to help grew even stronger.
Ultimately, regulations governing fitter certification were changed. As well as completing the training, Rosa created a discreet fitting area at Mille Notte, highlighted her fitting specialty and, to tie it all together, three years ago founded the Caledon Breast Cancer Foundation.
The foundation’s objectives are several, but all speak to Rosa’s driving belief that women dealing with breast cancer should be treated with dignity and respect. Counselling, support groups with trained leaders, financial help with wigs, specialized undergarments and prostheses are among the foundation’s undertakings. This year breast health workshops are being added to the calendar.
In reference to her achievements, Rosa demurs, “I’m fortunate in so many ways.” The “wow” factor of the annual gala comes as a result of the performers she is able to line up from her many contacts in the entertainment industry. But it is her wonderful aesthetic sense combined with brass-tacks logistical talent that naturally weave people and causes together.
In fact, it’s hard to imagine Rosa Alvarez not getting everything she sets her sights on. It’s a fire she passes on to her dance students: “When my students want to give up, I remind them that I was the worst student in class.”
Her next goal for the Caledon Breast Cancer Foundation is the acquisition of a building for workshops, support groups and wellness classes. With irrepressible optimism, she conjures aloud: “I know the exact building. It’s not for sale right now. But when we are ready with the resources, the house will be ready for us.”