Art That Keeps on Giving: Lazy Daze proceeds help Cary nonprofits

While the Lazy Daze Arts & Crafts Festival is widely known as a fun-filled family activity, what often goes unseen is the philanthropic role the festival provides to the Town of Cary.

Since the festival’s inception, profits from the day have been used to give back to the Cary community in a multitude of ways. While the festival has been turning a profit since its inaugural event in 1977, it has come a long way since the first year, when the $500 profit was used to purchase a large tent for the recreation department.

Now, the profits have turned into the Lazy Daze grant program, which allows Cary nonprofits to apply for grants to promote local cultural arts. Last year, the event supplied 31 different Cary organizations with $37,000 in grant money.

In total, Lazy Daze has raised more than $530,000 since 1977, all of which has been funneled back into the Cary community.

“We want people to see how Lazy Daze is giving back and feeding the money back into the community,” said Town of Cary Festivals Coordinator  Joy Ennis. “We give back through these grants to focus on arts in a larger way.”

The grants aim to return money to   community nonprofits to promote arts and cultural arts in the area. Organizations that apply for grant money must specify what the money will go toward and recipients are chosen through the festival committee.

Priority is given first to cultural arts organizations or projects, then to projects that support Town of Cary and downtown initiatives, and lastly to other Cary-based nonprofits.

Ennis says the committee receives an overwhelming number of requests — typically much more than the festival can provide. Last year, the committee received 45 requests totaling $93,000, with grant requests typically up to $3,000 each. The selection committee must carefully review each application and determine the best fit for the festival’s mission.

Here is a snapshot of some of the recent recipients of Lazy Daze grants and a look into how they’ve been able to use the grant money to give back to the Cary community:

Cary Players Community Theatre Company

The Cary Players have received Lazy Daze grants for the past five years.

“Our request is usually earmarked toward a specific show,” said Debra Grannan, CEO. “Our performances can run upward of $20,000 once you account for the set and costuming. Most everyone involved is a volunteer, but the cost of doing business is very real.”

A 2012 Lazy Daze grant partially funded the group’s performance of The Miracle Worker, the story of Helen Keller.

“We thought this was a really important piece both as a theatrical experience and an educational opportunity,” said Grannan. “The cast ranged from 5-year-olds to 65-year-olds and there was a lot of ethnic diversity. We try to choose shows that can reach a wide range of people. Ninety percent of our efforts are focused in the heart of downtown Cary, and we’re bringing a lot of people into downtown.”

While the performance theater group depends mainly on income from ticket sales, grants do provide a portion of its funding.

“We really appreciate the opportunity that the Town of Cary offers with this grant,” Grannan said. “The town makes the whole process less complicated than other grants we apply for. And it’s a great resource if you’re doing a good project that’s worthy of recognition.”

Life Experiences

At Life Experiences Inc., a day program for adults with disabilities, the contribution to the community is palpable. The organization provides a working environment for disabled adults, where they offer  a variety of services to the community — everything from paper shredding to baking to silverware rolling.

But when the working day is over, Assistant Director Kelly Manganaro says it’s important for the employees to have something else meaningful to do.

Life Experiences uses Lazy Daze grant money to fund cultural arts projects for its employees.

“They work until 2 in the afternoon, and many don’t have anywhere to go until 5. We’re funded by The United Way, but anything we do outside of work is on us,” said Manganaro. Participants use those afternoon hours to do craft projects that can be used as gifts or for the organization’s annual auction event.

“It’s an important social aspect of what we offer. After work, we think it’s important for them to have a chance to hang out with their peers, learn how to get along, and have a chance to feel like an individual,” said Manganaro.

She says Life Experiences has applied for the Lazy Daze grant every year that she can remember.

“It’s always something cultural arts related,” she said. “It’s hard to find fun things for them to do and then have the funds to pay for it.”

One upcoming project is to create ceramic bowls to be used at the place settings during the Life Experiences auction dinner. The employees will have a chance to help make the bowls and include their thumbprint in the design; the bowls will then be painted and fired for use during the auction.

“We’d never be able to pay someone to fire the bowls, paint them, etc. The grant helps us make things like this attainable,” Manganaro said.

“A lot of them would have no exposure to art except crayons and paper. But this way they can have a project that they know they created, and they can be proud of themselves.”

Friends of the Page-Walker Hotel

Friends of the Page-Walker Hotel initially started as a stewardship group to preserve the Page-Walker Hotel and develop it into the Page-Walker Arts and History Center. Today, the group’s mission has expanded to include preserving Cary’s historical sites, archiving, history education and promoting cultural arts.

Recently, the group has used Lazy Daze  grant funds for projects like archiving Cary’s history with the help of the Cary Historical Society. They have been able to hire an intern to capture all of the history elements and supplies to help with the archiving and protection process.

The Cary Players’ February 2013 production of The Miracle Worker benefitted from Lazy Daze grant funds.

Cary’s elementary and junior-high students also benefit from projects funded by the grant money. One year, the grant went toward creating and writing a curricular program about the history of Cary for fourth- and eighth-grade teachers to use as part of history classes.

“The grant from Lazy Daze provides us the opportunity and funds to pursue those important projects that are part of our mission,” said Pat Fish, treasurer for Friends of the Page-Walker Hotel. “It’s not only a wonderful event, but it turns around and gives right back to the community.”

The Carying Place

Carolyn Hendricks, board president for The Carying Place, says its assistance programs for homeless, working families in Cary have benefitted annually from grant money they receive from Lazy Daze.

“This grant has provided many opportunities for The Carying Place families and children, from providing an art and education component for our children who have been traumatized by homelessness to providing gasoline for the adult family members to travel to and from work,” said Hendricks.

“The Lazy Daze grant has helped The Carying Place families create self-sufficiency, as witnessed by the 310 families we have served.”

Hendricks says the driving force  to apply for the grant is “to help The Carying Place with family support services; to help our children express their feelings of homelessness through a wide variety of arts; to help sustain the families’ transportation to and from work; and to create greater community involvement and awareness in our mission.”

In addition to the grant program, The Carying Place also uses the Lazy Daze festival as an avenue to recruit new volunteers.

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