You may not know her name, but you know her three most famous words. Gloria Gaynor sings “I Will Survive,” the anthem for every woman who has been dumped and thrived after heartache. The disco legend defined those lyrics of emancipation, and now she's using them to help fight homelessness

Gaynor headlined this year’s annual charity gala for ACE, the Association of Community Employment Programs for the Homelessness, which is celebrating its 30th anniversary. The 79 year old belted out her hits, which included “I Am What I Am” and “Never Can Say Goodbye” to an ecstatic audience of more than 250 guests. 

The Grammy Award-winning singer then brought the house down with a passioned rendition of her 1978 empowering ballad “I Will Survive” inside the Capitale Ballroom in Manhattan’s Bowery neighborhood. Gaynor also delighted guests with a medley of hits in honor of her “soul sister,” the late, great Donna Summers.

ACE is celebrating three decades of helping homeless men and women in New York’s five boroughs get their lives back on track. During the evening, two of ACE’s program graduates addressed the room speaking of their past struggles with drug addiction and homelessness. One of them, Jacqueline Richardson, who had once battled drug addiction and faced incarceration, shared her story of redemption.

Richardson entered a long-term rehabilitation facility and, in the course of treatment was referred to ACE, the program that changed her life. The structure and sense of community of the classes and work filled her with a sense of purpose. A few months after entering the ACE program, Richardson was hired as head cashier at Nathan’s Hot Dogs in Penn Station, a position she held for 11 years. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the location closed. Richardson once again turned to ACE for help, who not only connected her to resources but also offered her full-time employment as a crew supervisor within the organization, a true homecoming.

ACE has been on New York City’s front lines helping individuals impacted by homelessness, which impacts Black and brown individuals in this country disproportionately: 77 percent of the individuals who come to ACE are men and women of color.

Run by 93-year-old Henry Buhl, the organization is dedicated to eradicating these inequalities by helping its participants secure employment, achieve long-term economic self-sufficiency and reunite with their families.

The evening's rousing donation drive and live auction garnered more than $300,000 for the organization, which means 30 more students can partake in the life-changing program.