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Renée C. Gage
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Renée C. Gage
A group of forty local women on a mission to help those foster children have volunteered their time to fundraise on CASA's behalf. Charity League, a local nonprofit group founded in 1934, selects one charity a year to champion. The women who make up the League volunteer their spare time from October through February, fundraising through a letter writing campaign. The League desires to contribute to the community by aiding charities via fundraising, as well as raising awareness for them. And CASA of the Coastal Bend is in need.
Part of the National CASA program, the Coastal Bend chapter, established in 1991, supports and promotes Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) for abused or neglected children. These advocates, volunteers who spend their time advocating for minors in foster care, need a new building. Once funding is complete, their current stark facility will give way to a warm, inviting environment for children who have either just been re-moved from their families or who are waiting to see the judge. CASA plans to include a "Kid's Corner" and "Teen Lounge" to give these abused or neglected children a place they can know as a safe space. This larger facility will also allow for more room for more CASA volunteers. Currently, only about fifty percent of children in foster care have an advocate.
“These charities, not only do they need these funds to do what they need to do, they need people to know about them,” explains Charity League President Dana Madry. This grassroots organization raised over $251,000 for the last charity they promoted, Citizens for Educational Excellence.
One charity a year is selected by the League's Welfare Committee to be the focus of that fundraising year. After placing a notification in the paper stating they are accepting applications, as well as inviting charities not chosen in previous years to reapply, the selection process begins. Over forty applications are usually received, and the League spends about a week and a half re-viewing and re-reviewing the applications. "Anyone and everyone is encouraged to apply," says Madry. Any charity not picked is welcome to apply the following year.
Fundraising is achieved through tax deductible donations or raffle ticket purchases. “It’s strictly a letter writing campaign,” states Tracy Fraiche, who handles public relations. “Every raffle ticket that is purchased, one hundred percent goes to the charity,” explains Madry, “because all the raffle items are donated.” Raffle prizes range from values of $500 and up, and include jewelry, gift certificates, teeth whitening, a $1200 wardrobe allowance from the fashion show designer as well as a $1500 shopping spree at Julian Gold.
The League's Fashion Show, held each February, sells out every year and ticket sales contribute a significant portion of the funds received for the charity. Each fashion show has a different theme, this year's being Southern Living, and a coordinating nonalcoholic signature drink. Kari Morrison, store director of Julian Gold, selects a designer who complements the League's theme. “We could not do (the fashion show) without Julian Gold,” says Madry. This year's fashion show highlights a Spring/Summer collection by MILLY. A reception precedes the show, with many guests sipping the signature drink while dressed to match the theme. The American Bank Center Henry Garrett ballroom plays host to the sold-out lunch show, which features models strutting the elevated runway wearing the carefully selected designer’s clothing. “Every table and ticket that is bought, fifty percent goes straight to the charity,” explains Madry. The other half of the ticket sales cover the cost of the food served at the fashion show.
Julian Gold’s current fashions are featured first, followed by the designer of the year. The designer showcases an upcoming collection that is not yet available, so patrons are treated to a preview. Lunch, the menu also keeping with the theme, is served, and the charity representatives speak about their organization and needs. The final fundraising tally is revealed before the event ends.
While the designer’s clothing is not available for purchase, a truck show is held at Julian Gold following the fashion show. Julian Gold’s clothing can be bought, and the designer’s clothing can be ordered.
While eager to talk about CASA's needs and fundraising goals for the year, Madry was quick to point out that the focus should be on the charity in need and not the forty women. “Charity League is not about Charity League,” explains Madry. “It’s not about us or about Charity League. Everything we do is about the charity.”