St. Thomas Women’s Guild invited 14 local vendors to set up booths before the guild’s annual luncheon and fashion show last week that would cater to more than 200 guests.

Attendees gathered at St. Thomas the Apostle Catholic Church in Lenoir City and perused booths displaying items ranging from children’s clothes to olive oil, and business owners chatted excitedly about the products they offer.

One of the vendors, Rainwater Farm, which makes natural body products, said the event allows the company to interact with customers in a new way.

“We love just doing stuff like that,” Emily Carlton, Rainwater Farm representative, said. “It’s a really fun atmosphere, and we do a farmers market in Lenoir City, so it’s cool to see some of the people who go to the farmers market also be here and just get to interact with those people.”

For some up-and-coming businesses, the luncheon and fashion show proved an opportune networking time.

“This is actually our first vendor event, so it was nice to be included,” Chelcie Martin, Little Mama’s Boutique owner, said.

Just as the event put a spotlight on local vendors, the luncheon was also provided for other nearby businesses, like Cook n Craft Academy and Take Out Thyme.

After lunch was served and chatter lessened, models hit the stage wearing clothes from Serendipity, a store that will open its doors Sept. 1 at 322 Grove St., in downtown Loudon.

Women donned trendy pants, jackets and bags and modeled across the stage, while those in the crowd were able to participate by checking off items they want to order once the store opens.

“Today is kind of a milestone for me,” Karen Lantry, Serendipity owner, said in a speech before the fashion show. “I’ve been dreaming about having my own boutique since I was a little kid. I’ve always loved fashion. So I love to share that with other people.”

Though the luncheon and fashion show are avenues to expose the public to local businesses, the feast and show’s underlying purpose is to support local charities.

“The St. Thomas Women’s Guild has been doing a fashion show for years,” Virginia Zorovich, co-chairwoman, said. “They have a couple of major fundraisers, this being one of them, and then the money, the profits from the fashion show at the end of the year are dispersed to local charities.”

After expenses are paid, proceeds are combined with the guild’s other fundraisers’ proceeds, which will be collected at the end of the year to be donated to charities.

The yearly luncheon and fashion show also unites the women within the guild for “friendship, solidarity, getting people together for charitable purposes,” Cindy Rogers, co-chairwoman, said.

“And again, supporting local merchants and local businesses in that the vendors can come,” Zorovich said.

Last year’s charity recipients included Bridge Refugee Services, Catholic Charities, Child Advocacy Center Focus, Good Samaritan Center of Loudon County, One Heart Columbia Mission, Project Lifesaver, St. Mary’s Legacy Clinic, St. Thomas Youth Group, St. Thomas Boy Scout Troop No. 770, Seminarian Fund and Tennessee Right to Life.