Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Jingle Bell Bash was a ball

On Dec. 1, I attended the Jingle Bell Bash at Wells Fargo Atrium. It's been several years since I've been able to be there, so it was exciting to see some of the changes that are going on with the event and the nonprofit it raises money for.

(Here's a few seconds of atmosphere video from the event, including a fun glimpse of photographer Daniel Coston in action):

One change is that it's now a fundraiser for Safe Alliance, formerly known as United Family Services. The name of the event has changed, too. It used to be called the Jingle Bell Ball, but is now known as the Jingle Bell Bash. To me, substituting the word bash for ball was a great idea because bash reflects the energetic and fun event. Plus it signals that the benefit, which was started back in 1994 by the Single Adult Ministry at Myers Park United Methodist Church, has now been turned over to a new crop of young professionals who are committed to the cause. (Below are photos of event co-chairs Kristi Salvatore and Kara Tanenbaum and a photo of guests having fun in a photo booth area.)

But here's the most impressive change of all about the gala, which is now in its 18th year: Over the years, it has helped raise money for Safe Alliance's Victim Services programs and its Shelter for Battered Women. Soon, the shelter will reopen as the new Clyde and Ethel Dickson Domestic Violence Shelter. It will have 80 beds (the other shelter had 29 beds). I haven't toured it yet, but I've heard that it's incredible how much thought was put into making it a place where families can heal and begin to have hope about their future.

One of the special people at the event was committee member Rosalind Richmond (her photo is above), a Charlotte banker who is a domestic violence survivor. It takes so much courage to not only get yourself out of a bad situation, but to turn your pain around to help others, so I applaud her. I also admire all the other event organizers and supporters who may not have gone through the same things Rosalind did, but whose hearts simply cannot bear to sit by without doing what they can to help others escape lives of fear and pain.

I was very taken by the crowd the Jingle Bell Bash attracted. There were lots of fixtures on Charlotte's philanthropy scene who were there - Jill Dinwiddie, Bernie Hargadon and Rick Bainbridge to name a few. Then I met a whole new group of smart, young and big-hearted committee members and guests who are carrying the torch for the future of philanthropy in our city. Among them was Kathleen Murphy Leveseque, creator of the Kathleen Murphy Jewelry line. I interviewed her several months ago when she was one of the winners of Belk's Southern Designer Showcase (look for her jewelry in select Belk stores this spring). I've heard the jewelry will also be featured soon in Vogue and Lucky magazines. She donated a beautiful piece for the gala's silent auction. (A photo is below)

I Tweeted live from the event, which is always fun. One of the first people I took a photo of was the evening's emcee, Anthony Michaels from 107.9 The Link. He has a deep yet pleasant voice that was meant for radio - and he looked stylish, too.

In fact, there were so many stylish people there I put together a page of holiday fashion photos from the event for the Dec. 6 Style section of the Observer that I hope will inspire you if you're unsure about what to wear to your next holiday party. (It's online now at and also has great tips from style expert Jania Massey).

Safe Alliance stellar staff members Bill Coy and Carol Roth were very indulgent of me when I came swooping in to take video, Tweet and pull people aside who stylishly stood out in the crowd. When I attend a party for a wonderful cause that's also full of interesting, amazing and fashionable people I'm overcome with a desire to share it with others.

Follow Olivia on Twitter @oliviafortson