I have never been to New Orleans, though I’ve always wanted to go. I don’t see that trip coming anytime soon, though. If you find yourself in that same situation, then I have a solution for the both of us: “The Big Easy” Gala at Cypress Manor in Cary on Feb. 22.
“We have a Dixieland band,” said Gina Myers, lead consultant and owner of La Cosa Bella Events, a company helping put on the gala. “We’re trying to create the whole feel of the Jackson Square there in New Orleans.”
You can go to Market or Decatur Street and have some fun, or go to Bourbon Street for the New Orleans-themed chef challenge. If you get bored, there will be living statues, a caricaturist, face painters and even people who can tell you your future.
“We have three legitimate tarot card readers who are pretty serious about their craft,” Myers said.
The event is the fourth annual Share to Care fundraising event put on by the Guiding Lights Caregiver Support Center. It’s not always New Orleans-themed — that changes every year — but it’s always for a good cause.
The organization does exactly what the title implies: finds ways to support caregivers. That could take the form of programs and services for caregivers, or collaboration with organizations that have resources caregivers could use.
Nicole Bruno, executive director of Guiding Lights, said “Many times they don’t know what they’re looking for, they’re just looking for help.”
Help for people like Myers. She used to be a caregiver. She took care of both her father-in-law and mother-in-law until they died, and it wasn’t easy.
“At the time I had two young children, and I had no resources to help me,” she said, adding that Guiding Lights wasn’t in existence then. “I wish they would have been. I had no one to go to.”
This event is the biggest fundraiser of the year for the organization, and it usually attracts about 500 people. That’s essential, because Guiding Lights doesn’t make big bucks doing its day-to-day job.
“This event enables us to continue our mission and to continue to support family caregivers ... at little or no cost,” Bruno said.
Cooper Linton is vice president of marketing and business development at Hospice of Wake County, one of the sponsors of the event. He said his organization supports Guiding Lights because it wants to make sure the community has access to the kinds of resources the organization provides. He wants others to help the group out too, and he said the gala is a good way to do it.
“You get to do something good and have a good time at the same time,” he said.
Brigitte Specht is the event chairwoman for the gala. In her day job, she works for a senior living company, and she said organizations like Guiding Lights are essential.
“Oftentimes in our work in the community, there were families that came in in crisis and weren’t a good fit for us,” she said. “So they needed another resource.”
The big draw of the event is that chef’s challenge I mentioned — the one happening on Bourbon Street. It brings together seven chefs from the senior living communities who compete for the top chef awards — one given by a panel of judges, and one from the gala’s attendees.
If that’s not enough for you, there is always the silent auction, or the myriad activities I mentioned earlier.
Good food, good fun, good cause. What’s not to like?
Alex Granados writes about people, places and traditions in North Raleigh and beyond. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.