WINTER PARK – Vanessa Echols felt privileged to be at Wearable Art on Thursday, and the shop’s owner, Scott Alles, was equally pleased to have the WFTV Channel 9 news anchor there.
On a sunny afternoon, after the last of Tropical Storm Debby’s heavy downpours were finally over, Echols was happily greeting customers at the shop at 340 Park Ave. North in Winter Park, which goes by the full name Wearable Art by Scott Laurent.
“It was a chance for us to get out into the community and let people know we’re here,” Echols said.
Alles added that he was pleased to be taking part in this because “My heart goes out to everybody.”
What Alles and Wearable Art did was host a fund-raising event for Compassionate Hands and Hearts Breast Cancer Outreach, the Orlando-based non-profit organization founded by Echols, which raises money to help women struggling with breast cancer.
Echols founded the organization in 2007 with a group of friends as a way for the entire Central Florida community to help women with breast cancer, and to reach out to cancer patients directly. Echols was herself diagnosed with cancer in 2004, and remains grateful for the strong support she got from family and friends throughout her treatment.
In order to continue their mission, Echols said, the organization relies on community partners like Wearable Art to hold fund-raisers for them.
“He’s opening up the store for us, and donated a percentage of his sales today to Compassionate Hands and Hearts,” Echols said. “They will invite people to come in and look at the clothing and the jewelry here, and a portion of the proceeds will be donated to us. This is a great opportunity for us. They have really unique things here.”
Wearable Art opened three years ago, right next door to the Scott Laurent Collection gallery next door, which has been on Park Avenue for 23 years.
“It’s one of the oldest establishments on Park Avenue,” Alles said.
Over the years, he added, the gallery has been involved in a host of charitable fund-raising events, supporting causes like Give Kids The World in Kissimmee and the Grand Masque Ball at Gaylord Palms Resort and Convention Center, which benefits the Orlando performing arts.
“We have raised over $8 million in all the years we’ve been in business,” he said. “We’ve raised money for 23 years now.”
The fund-raiser for Compassionate Hands and Hearts, he added, would not be a one-time effort.
“This is an ongoing event,” he said. “From now on, any of our customers, if they mention the group Compassionate Hands and Hearts, we give back on a quarterly basis 10 percent of the sale to them, and that is ongoing. We are emailing all of the people on our mailing list about this.”
In front of the shop on Park Avenue, artist Tebe Horne donated his time by setting up a workshop where he made hand-crafted jewelry items for the customers.
“Feel free to try one of mine,” he told one woman as he checked out his array of necklaces.
“There’s a mirror right there, take a look,” he added, pointing to the mirror on a stand that he brought with him.
“That’s all stainless steel,” he said. “You don’t have to polish it.”
The Orlando-based artist and craftsman, who runs Creative World LLC, said he was happy to be a part of the fund-raising event by bringing his copper jewlery there.
“It’s a free gift you get if you spend over $50 dollars,” he said. “This is what we do,” he said.
Echols said she thinks one reason why people in the community host fund-raising events for Compassionate Hands and Hearts is because they know where the money is going.
“It’s not like other organizations, where they donate and you hope it goes to people in need,” she said. “The whole point is they know the money is staying local and going to help a woman with breast cancer. One-hundred percent of our proceeds go to the patients.”
That makes a huge difference to those taking on this scary health care battle, she said.
In the past four years, Compassionate Hands and Hearts has grown considerably, assisting individuals and families who have been economically devastated by large medical bills. Those who assume a charitable organization would have a rough time when the economy is weak have turned out to be wrong about this all-volunteer effort, Echols said.
“Every year for us has been better and better,” she said.
To learn more about Compassionate Hands and Hearts, call 407-864-6458.
To learn more about Wearable Art, call 407-599-2255.
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