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Local Charity's Growth Prompts an Artful Solution

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Evening Under the Stars, one of Oviedo's premier charity galas, moves to the Orlando Museum of Art this year

An eight-year-old Oviedo charity is (happily) getting too big for its britches. So, Helpful Hands, Inc. is moving its showcase annual fundraising event from a private home to the Orlando Museum of Art this fall. The sixth annual Evening Under the Stars gala will be held on October 21 — with catered food and a live band — at the museum on North Mills Avenue.

Every year, Evening Under the Stars raises enough money to allow Helpful Hands to assist more than 1,000 needy children and their families in our community. The organization's motto, “Beginning where other agencies leave off,” reflects its goal to offer services that other agencies don't when a family is dealing with a crisis such as a fire, homelessness, or cancer, says founder Regina Bereswill, a former Oviedo City Councilor.

“We want to find out what the family is losing and restore normalcy where possible," says Regina.

The group’s programs include an initiative through BASE Camp Children’s Cancer Foundation that offers kids afflicted with cancer the chance to celebrate things like birthdays or the start of remission. Helpful Hands also sends underprivileged kids to area summer camps. The group's teen program provides things like prom attire, class rings, caps and gowns, and yearbooks for high-school seniors. For kids in crisis, Helpful Hands pays for athletic ventures like Little League, performing arts activities, reading programs, and more.

“These programs are the first things that go when families are in crisis,” says Regina, "but they are crucial in building self-esteem. Things like camp and music programs provide opportunities for children to be normal during an important time of life and to learn perseverance and discipline."

Regina knows first hand what can be lost when crisis hits. A former executive with British Airways, Regina was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2008. She founded Helpful Hands in 2009 and built the nonprofit while she was undergoing cancer treatments until 2011. Today, the 501(c)(3) charity is run entirely by volunteers, with a clearly defined mission and 95 percent of its revenue going toward its programs. An advisory board manages applications received from school guidance counselors, parents, and civic organizations for those in need.

With the help of volunteer CEO Angela Tony McConnell, Helpful Hands is managing its growth with an eye toward sustainability. The new venue for Evening Under the Stars opens up a world of possibilities for the charity, says Josh Strzalko president of the Helpful Hands board of directors.

“The new venue allows us to have a larger number of sponsors and allows for additional promotion," he says. "For attendees, we can hold 30 to 40 percent more than previous years. A larger, more prestigious venue also gives a new sense of excitement and allure to get new people there and make sure previous attendees are excited to see what’s in store.”

None of the growth, however, will detract from the areas Helpful Hands serves now, where it is clearly making a difference. In 2016 so far, $78,000 has been raised. Next year’s goal is $100,000.

Susan Haines, vice president of the Helpful Hands board, says there are so many stories of the good the nonprofit is doing, and the momentum it provides.

“This past Christmas, we had a young man about the age of 16 ask for a Nintendo game system,” Susan says. “When he came in to pick up his gift, he explained that the gift was for his entire family, and that he would be giving it to them as a surprise. They had all been living in a car for some time and had just been able to move into an apartment. It was such a selfless act on his part, and it touched me.”


What: Helpful Hands Inc.’s Annual Evening Under the Stars gala

Where: Orlando Museum of Art, 2416 North Mills Avenue, Orlando

When: Friday, October 21, 2016

Why: Helpful Hands enhances the quality of life for local children and families in crisis.


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