Art sale an overwhelming success in effort to raise money for children in Ocala National Forest

The recently held art sale to benefit the SoZo Kids was a smashing success in every way.  Artist and SoZo mentor Fran Norton mentioned the idea to friends while playing cards. Fast forward from idea to fruition, Fran Norton presented a check to Pastor Dave Houck, executive director of SoZo Kids and Help Agency of Ocala Forest, for $7,500 at the Villages Art League business meeting Monday at Moyer Recreation Center. The money was earned by Villages artists donating work to be sold at very reasonable prices.

Pastor Dave Houck receiving check from Fran Norton.
Pastor Dave Houck receiving check from Fran Norton.

Pastor Dave thanked the artists for their generosity.  He said that the money would be used to install a second shower house for the children who live in homes without running water. They money will also pay for programming, food and shoes for the children over the summer.

In the beginning Norton wasn’t sure if she just had a crazy idea or if this would work. Every step of the way exceeded her expectations.

She invited artists and photographers from the Villages Art League, the Visual Arts Association and the Villages Photography Club to participate by donating a piece of their work. Norton was hoping to get enough to fill a few tables, in all she received 350 pieces of art.

Dunedin resident Pam Sullivan learned about SoZo Kids program from Rev. Ideal Baldoni, president of the Villages SoZo Kids Club.
Dunedin resident Pam Sullivan learned about SoZo Kids program from Rev. Ideal Baldoni, president of the Villages SoZo Kids Club.

“People were handing me art at every meeting,” said Norton. “I would come home to find paintings stacked on my doorstep.”

Next concern  – would people come, would people buy? The lobby at Laurel Manor was so packed the day of the sale they opened the sale early. With paintings priced at $25 and $50, art was selling at a brisk pace.

“People were so generous,” said Norton. “One man stopped by just to donate a check for $300; another woman bought a pack of note cards and wrote a check for $50. It went on like that all day. I was brought to tears many times during the sale.”

La Reynalda resident purchased a painting and then had the opportunity to meet the artist Ellen Staab because Staab was volunteering at the sale.
La Reynalda resident purchased a painting and then had the opportunity to meet the artist Ellen Staab because Staab was volunteering at the sale.

Norton had hoped to make $2,000. “That was a high hope,” said Norton. “I would wake up at night doing the math, if we sold this many paintings at this price . . .” At the end of the sale almost every piece of donated art was sold and the tally was more than three times what Norton had expected.

She was amazed at the generosity of all involved. At the meeting she thanked the artists and her committee members for their donations, volunteering their time and most importantly taking a leap of faith with her.

President of the Villages SoZo Kids Ideal Baldoni was at the art sale to tell people who were interested more about the SoZo Kids program and available volunteer opportunities. The club meets quarterly. The next meeting is May 2 at New Covenant Methodist Church.

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