A Night to Remember

By Karin Fabry

The 2004 Diamond Gala, Ocala Style Publisher Kathy Johnson’s signature event, promises to be bigger and better than ever. And this year, it will have a new charitable benefactor: Sheltering Arms.

A non-profit organization, Sheltering Arms was established to provide residential care for abandoned, abused, or neglected children in our area.

“Our mission for Sheltering Arms began when several of us from Joy Lutheran Church began looking at some of the problems facing our community and how best to solve them,” says executive director Doris Hegmon Williams. “We kept seeing in the newspapers about local children being picked up by the Department of Children and Families, then having to sleep on the floor of the DCF offices. It was appalling.”

Not wanting Sheltering Arms to be limited to a church venture, the start-up committee introduced its idea to the community and was greeted with open arms.

“Today, we are governed by a 12-member board of directors that represents the community at large,” Doris says. “We have received blessings and support from many area individuals, businesses, and organizations.

Having recently received certification from DCF, Sheltering Arms, as a residential childcare facility, can accommodate 12 children in an emergency situation or on a transitional basis.

“We will be a safe haven for our youngest victims,” Doris says. “Our focus is on children from birth to 11 years old. The exception will be siblings, who we’ll keep together regardless of their age.”

Doris, who is a mother to two children and 8 stepchildren, knows the importance of providing a safe, family environment for developing children.

“The kids at Sheltering Arms will be treated as though they are our own,” Doris says. “I guarantee that.”

The five bedroom, 3-1/2 bath home will be staffed 24 hours a day with counselors and volunteers.

“We have a monthly mortgage, plus the additional operational costs for running a home like this around the clock,” Doris says. “That’s where we need the most help — with the operational costs.”

Every day the children will have nutritious meals and snacks, an arts-and-crafts hour, music, and other special-interest lessons, as well as educational and community enrichment activities.

“There is no other place like this in Marion County,” Doris explains. “We are committed to making the lives better for those children who desperately need our help. And, as a new facility, we need all the help we can get.

Over the past two years, Ocala Style’s Diamond Gala, a black-tie event like no other in Ocala, has raised more than $40,000 to support the Appleton Museum of Art. With much-deserved state funding now beginning to trickle into the museum, allowing the facility to get back on its feet, Ocala Style publisher Kathy Johnson decided that Sheltering Arms would benefit from this year’s gala.

“I’ve always been for the underdog, whether it’s in a book or real life — that’s just the way my heart leans,” Kathy explains. “And I see no greater underdog than a defenseless child.”

Kathy, who is both a mother and a grandmother, says that because of the hurt and abuse the kids at Sheltering Arms have suffered, they need a tremendous amount of loving care. She believes the staff and volunteers who make up Sheltering Arms are sincere and reliable in their mission to help these children. And in order for an organization like Sheltering Arms to become a success, it needs not only the spirit and determination to make it happen, but also the funding.

“That’s why I feel blessed that I’m able to support a worthy organization like Sheltering Arms by fundraising events and through the pages of Ocala Style magazine,” Kathy says. “Every month in Ocala Style, we donate space to worthwhile organizations that deal with important issues, whether they relate to families, children, or animals. We do our best to raise community awareness whether it be through space in the magazine or through elaborate fundraising efforts.”

And even though Kathy would opt to stay out of the limelight when it comes to her accomplishments and charitable donations, those on the receiving end of her generosity are extremely grateful.

“We are excited and delighted to be the recipients of the proceeds from this year’s Diamond Gala event,” Doris says. “This is just the kind of push our organization needs. We hope this marks the beginning of a long and wonderful relationship between Sheltering Arms and Ocala Style.”

“You never know what you can do to touch someone’s life,” Kathy says. I’ve always believed that you should treat people the way you want to be treated. There truly is more joy in giving than in receiving.”

On this December 10, Ocala’s finest will join together at Golden Ocala’s impressive clubhouse to celebrate the season and raise funds for a well-deserving charity. This regal event, dubbed the Diamond Gala, is a party like no other. Sparkling champagne greets the immaculately dressed guests as they cross the foyer. The never-ending buffet and carving stations overflow with elegant hors d’oeuvres, scintillating entrees, and sinfully rich desserts. An open bar will complement the various selections.

In past years, silent and live auctions included such unique prizes as a stay at Ocean Hammock Beach Resort in St. Augustine, a southern-style quail hunt for four, and a Harley Davidson Roadster. This year’s auction items are guaranteed to get people talking, not to mention bidding.

This year’s must-have auction item is surely one-of-a-kind. Lee Farkas of the mortgage firm Taylor, Bean & Whitaker has generously donated the use of their private jet for an unforgettable evening. The highest bidder and three guests will be whisked away to Atlanta to be wined and dined at the Ritz Carlton in Buckhead. An elegant stretch limo will be the ride of choice.

But the true highlight of the evening is the diamonds themselves. Guests have a chance to bid or purchase the latest styles in jewelry. Everything from gold and silver to colorful gemstones and, of course, diamonds.

“The Diamond Gala is a huge entertainment event with lots of sparkling jewels, dancing, and excitement,” Kathy says. “And the event happens to support a worthy cause. It’s a great time spent with friends.”

Ocala Style presents

A Diamond Gala Affair

To benefit Sheltering Arms

December 10, 2004

$125 per ticket


Please RSVP prior to December 6th by calling 732-0073. Major credit cards accepted.

Help Needed

Sheltering Arms’ wish list this holiday season is filled with everyday items needed to make the children’s lives safe, comfortable, and fulfilling. As a new and growing organization, it needs additional assistance and community support. In the spirit of the holiday season, if you’re interested in giving to Sheltering Arms, here is just a sampling of the types of items they are in need of:

• Art supplies

• Bedding for twin beds

• Decorative pillows

• Diapers and training pants

• DVD player and children’s movies

• Game table with chairs

• Laundry and dishwashing detergents

• Lawn rake and hoe

• Musical instruments (piano, drums, flute)

• Outdoor storage shed

• Passenger van

• Pictures and wall hangings

• School supplies

• Small kitchen appliances (blender, crockpot, skillet)

• Towels

• White rocking chair

• Toys, games, books

• Computer

• Children’s clothing size newborn to age 12

• Baby bottles, sippy cups

Donations can be dropped off at Ocala Style magazine: 1007 East Fort King Street, Suite B

Posted in Ocala Style Features

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