February 21, 2009
Jan Swoope - [email protected]
Patti Johnson loves an artistic challenge. The Columbus artist has been busy transforming a cigar box into a trendy accessory and a shell-shaped container into a stylish adornment. It''s all for a good cause. Johnson, and others like her, are gearing up for the third annual HEARTS Spring Purse and Bag Auction benefiting the non-profit after-school tutoring program.
The festive event is Friday, Feb. 27, at the Columbus Country Club from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Colgate Country Showdown winners Nash Street, of Starkville, will provide lively foot-tapping bluegrass, and wine and cheese will be served. Tickets are $25 at the door, or are available in advance by contacting HEARTS Board President, the Rev. Sandra DePriest, at 662-574-1972.
A variety of designer and handcrafted bags, decor items, baked goods and unique treats will help raise funds for the agency which provides much-needed tutoring for children in Columbus.
"Last year, we raised $12,000 through this event, and that was just amazing," said auction chair Elizabeth Johnson. "It''s not just purses; there are items men will enjoy, like a one-day hunting trip given by Charlie Lindquist."
Bidders will good-naturedly vie for other tempting items including a two-night stay at the Amzi Love/Lincoln Home Bed and Breakfast given by Sid and Brenda Caradine, a two-night stay given by Don and Sandra DePriest at the Choctaw Bed and Breakfast and one hour of harp music by Belinda Hudson.
Jack White, of Columbus, donated two decorated bags for the auction.
"I like to make something vibrant and lively," he said, referring to the brilliantly colored green and yellow purses he contributed. "I look for handbags and buy odds and ends to decorate them with. This year I used some costume jewelry, too, and added a little surprise in each purse.
"I want them to be uplifting. And that''s a good word to use -- because HEARTS is uplifting. The program is so purposeful and focused in such an admirable way."
Johnson remarked with enthusiasm, "It''s wonderful to get your creative juices flowing. It''s a challenge for the artist to come up with clever ideas."
"This is a great event because it''s fun," added Edwina Williams, who is donating a boutique "piano keyboard" purse and a "Mother Goose" birthday party for the auction. "Everybody there has a smile on their face."
The good cause
"We have about 40 children we tutor during the school year," said HEARTS Director Mary Ezell. "They come twice a week in the afternoon from 2:30 p.m. to 4 p.m. Our volunteers are a loving and nurturing group of people who really help them with reading and self-confidence."
The program began as an outreach ministry at the Church of the Good Shepherd in East Columbus. After outgrowing its location, it moved to nearby Lawrence Drive.
"We currently have children from Fairview, Sale, Joe Cook, Stokes-Beard, Annunciation and Franklin," Ezell shared. Services are offered free, which is why the auction is such an important element in HEARTS'' success.
"We could help 200 children if we had enough volunteers," Johnson stated of the need. "We try to have one volunteer to no more than three or four children." Anyone interested in donating their time may contact Ezell at 662-244-8444.
The director praises the program''s unselfish volunteers. "There''s a fabric of volunteerism in this community that binds people together, which is unlike some of the other towns I''m familiar with. It''s thanks to many people that we''re able to do this."
The director knows the effort is worth it.
"When I pick up the paper and read the children on the principal''s or superintendent''s lists, I see names of former HEARTS students, and I know they''re doing well. Some of them are on football teams or doing other things, involved in the community. And some of these are little children who might not be doing as well if somebody hadn''t taken such an interest in them."
DePriest, a champion of the program when it began seven years ago, sees the impact, too. "HEARTS is making a difference in the lives of these young students. We love them even as we tutor and encourage them."
Jan Swoope is the Lifestyles Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.