By Linnea Jessup
Whether saving the environment or reaching out to individuals at home and abroad, art-industry partners support their communities through acts of kindness, financial assistance and a focus on better environments for all. These donations represent a year-round commitment for many of these professionals. They resolve to improve the world and individual living conditions in many ways, partnering with their employees and local beneficiaries to provide positive change.
At Roma Moulding in Woodbridge, Ontario, Canada, the vision extends from North America to Haiti. In 2013, the company created Roma Wish, whose mission is to assist nearby communities. Team members, along with their families and friends, have supported several local efforts, including donating holiday gifts to a family in need, contributing to a local food drive and donating to Ronald McDonald House. This year, the company sent a team to Haiti to help with rebuilding efforts after the devastating 2010 earthquake.
All employees can propose organizations, and the Roma Wish committee evaluates which causes to support through funds and volunteering. “Giving back is really what life is all about,” says Tony Gareri, CEO. “My mission in life is to enrich the lives of others. I actively pursue this mission every day with my team, my family and my community. I’ve learned that, by supporting charities, my mission is returned to me, as I find my life to be greatly enriched.”
“Art and charity go hand in hand,” he says. “Art can give so much emotion, passion, energy and hope. Philanthropy is also about giving hope; giving to others makes our world a better place.”
Frame USA, based in Cincinnati, serves a national market and supports charity efforts worldwide. The company raises funds for a charity of the month, which at least once a year is a local nonprofit. The Cincinnati store also has its own local charity of the month.
The company’s Fill-the-Truck campaign always benefits local nonprofit group The Healing Center, an organization that helps struggling families in the greater Cincinnati area. The center provides families with food, clothing, support and job advice. Last year’s campaign generated enough donations of food, clothing, toiletries, household items and more to fully support the center for approximately six months.
A percentage of each Frame USA sale goes toward various corporate initiatives, including Operation Smile, Wild Animal Sanctuary and Heifer International.
“The more we can help others, the better it is,” says Kelly Ackerman, marketing director.
She notes that charity support is a companywide activity. “We are all involved,” she says. “Our sales reps and customer-service reps mention it to everyone they contact, and employees at all levels of our company make suggestions about fundraising and benefiting organizations.”
Pepito Masterpiece Portraits
Pepito Valdes, owner of Pepito Masterpiece Portraits, focuses his lens and charity efforts on “Faces of Hope” photographs, a project now in its ninth year. The Tampa, Florida, photographer and framer creates free portraits of children with life-threatening illnesses. He also provides catered meals and makeup applications before the photo sessions.
“At first, I thought I was just doing something for them,” he says. “But I quickly realized that it’s a gift to me—that I am able to give the family something that will last forever.”
Valdes has also worked with the Pediatric Cancer Foundation and volunteers at live and silent auctions. On Christmas Day for the last 15 years, he has also joined Metropolitan Ministries, an organization that serves poor and homeless residents in the Tampa area. He sets up a studio at the center’s location, gives stuffed animals to all the kids and takes family portraits of the residents.
“For many of them, it may be the only family photo they have,” he says.
Elizabeth and Olof Carmel have produced stunning landscape photographs for 12 years and have owned Carmel Galleries for eight years. With locations in Truckee and Calistoga, California, two cities in beautiful, natural settings, the galleries attract travelers from around the world.
As part of their commitment to giving back, they donate many prints of their work to local auctions and other fundraisers in their local communities. The pair also donates many of the images to support marketing for local land-trust and environmental organizations that work to protect the landscapes they photograph.
The Carmels “both have an understanding of the importance of protecting the last wild and beautiful places on the planet and the importance of maintaining a healthy environment for future generations,” they say. They also laud the many people who work at nonprofits that support the preservation of nature, many of whom forgo the opportunity to earn a larger income.
“We try to do everything possible to assist with the missions of the organizations we support,” the couple says.
Urban Ashes, in Ann Arbor, Michigan, gives back every day by reclaiming and repurposing wood for frames. Owner Paul Hickman and his innovative company are also “reclaiming lives” by providing work for ex-felons.
“They are productive and have redeemed themselves, and they are eager to be good workers,” he says of his workforce.
Creating sustainable art, including frames and mouldings from used wood and downed trees, is the manifestation of the company’s mission to divert as much wood as possible from landfills, says Hickman.
Urban Ashes also provides funds, products and support to many local charities, including Arts Alliance, Think Local First and Heron Watershed. The staff is currently developing a model for helping workers improve their lives and the environment.
“Most art is driven by expression, and supporting others is also an expression,” says Hickman.