SOURCE: The Verve Music Group

July 07, 2006 11:23 ET

Legendary Songstress Gladys Knight and Ashley Stewart Stores to Create Charitable Foundation

Verve Records Recording Artist Gladys Knight Launches Charitable Initiative Alongside Her Newest Recording Project, "BEFORE ME"; The First Beneficiary of the Foundation's Efforts Will Be DRESS FOR SUCCESS

NEW YORK, NY -- (MARKET WIRE) -- July 7, 2006 --Ashley Stewart Stores, the leading fashion retailer for full-figured women, and legendary songstress Gladys Knight have joined forces in creating "The Ashley Stewart Stores Community Foundation."

Ethan Shapiro, President and Chief Executive Officer of Urban Brands, parent company of Ashley Stewart Stores, comments, "We believe that education is the cornerstone of human development. As a company we are committed to the education of the youth in our communities. There is an opportunity to help people in our communities through education. Be it at the grammar school, high school, trade school or college level. We want this foundation to provide people with the opportunity to have that chance."

Ms. Knight's upcoming album, "Before Me," due October 3, 2006 on Verve Records, is a reflection of the things that the foundation stands for. Helmed by legendary producers Tommy LiPuma, and Phil Ramone, "Before Me" is a heartfelt homage to the great women of song who paved the way for Knight to become a legendary performer in her own right -- Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan, Lena Horne, Dinah Washington, Nina Simone and Mahalia Jackson. Many of these artists were friends, mentors, and colleagues of Knight's since the beginning of her career. "Coming up, I was an artist who wanted to watch, listen and learn," says Knight. "We had such wonderful people to look up to. They gave their all with love and respect for what they did in spite of society's shortcomings at the time." Ashley Stewart Stores will collaborate with Gladys Knight and Verve Records to sell the CD with all of the profits from the sale in the Ashley Stewart Stores going to the foundation.

Ron Goldstein, President and CEO of The Verve Music Group, remarks, "We are proud that Gladys Knight is making her Verve Records debut with 'Before Me' and pleased to support her alliance with the dynamic Ashley Stewart Stores and this very worthwhile charitable initiative, which is so much in keeping with everything Gladys Knight stands for."

The foundation's first charitable contribution will go to DRESS FOR SUCCESS, the international not-for-profit organization that assists more than 45,000 disadvantaged women each year as they transition into the workforce. Joi Gordon, CEO of Dress for Success, says, "Dress for Success first helps women to project a professional image, and then we empower women so they can retain their jobs, develop rewarding careers, and achieve self-sufficiency."

The collaboration between Ashley Stewart and Gladys Knight will also include personal appearances, to be announced at a later date, where Ms. Knight will conduct seminars in Ashley Stewart Stores with the local Dress for Success affiliates.

A star-studded charity event will be held on October 26th 2006 when Gladys Knight will perform at the Apollo Theater in New York City. The proceeds from that event will be contributed to the foundation.

Ashley Stewart Stores is the operator of 200 + stores across the United States and the U.S Virgin Islands.

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