A few months ago, during Art Day at the Safe Alliance shelter for victims of domestic abuse, volunteers Katherine Daly and Hillary Lacouture decided to give the shelter residents a day of fun.
They brought the canvas, paper, paint and other supplies so the mothers and children who are residents there could forget their problems for a while and immerse themselves in a world of creativity.
The works that were created that day will form a backdrop that will hang Feb. 2 at Art With Heart, the annual fundraiser for Safe Alliance that Daly and Lacouture, close friends and Charlotte natives, have spent the past two years shaping into one of Charlottes premier annual fundraisers.
Last years event, the first they co-chaired together, took place in Founders Hall uptown and featured silent and live auctions of art donated by notable artists from the Southeast. In a few hours, it raised more than $150,000 the most since Art With Heart was established in 2000.
The women spend hundreds of hours preparing for that one night.
Daly and Lacouture knew each other growing up but became close friends when they reconnected as Art With Heart volunteers and served on the planning committee for the gala. Several years ago, when plans were first announced for Safe Alliances new Clyde and Ethel Dickson Domestic Violence Shelter, which opened this month, they were motivated to become chairs of the fundraiser, with the goal of increasing the levels of giving.
The old shelter was smaller than the one in Gastonia, Lacouture says. And residents could only stay there for 30 days. Thirty days is not enough time to turn your life around.
The new shelter is four times larger, residents can stay there for a year, and there are even more programs for all ages to help nurture them and break the cycle of domestic violence.
Now they have more of an opportunity to educate themselves, to learn life skills necessary to move forward with their lives, and to feel safe with their children, Lacouture says.
Feeling safe is the most important, Daly adds.
A bigger and better shelter also means a higher operating cost, so the pair is even more determined to continue bringing in big money.
Volunteers with that kind of vision and commitment are key to the success of any nonprofit, said Bill Coy, Safe Alliances media and communications coordinator.
Hillary and Katherine have provided exemplary leadership over the past two years, heading up Art With Heart said Phil Kline, the nonprofits president and CEO.
Their passion and creativity combine to guarantee a fun evening for art lovers throughout the community, and more importantly to raise funds to operate Safe Alliances services and new shelter.
Back this year is BidPal, one of the new ideas the duo brought to last years event. The gadget that looks similar to an iPhone is given out to everyone when they arrive so they can check the status of their bids from anywhere at the event rather than having to check bid sheets in person.
The live auction will offer works from this years featured artists, Carl Plansky and Javier Lopez Barbosa both represented by Elder Gallery.
We try to do something innovative every year, Lacouture said. But what remains the same for us and the guests is that this event helps change lives.