habitat-restore-picEditor’s Note: This summer, Lowcoutry Habitat for Humanity’s ReStore is celebrating 10 years in operation as the Beaufort area’s “store that builds houses.” Lowcountry Habitat, the northern Beaufort County affiliate of Habitat for Humanity International, was founded here in 1990.

The local ReStore started officially in 2004. To celebrate this 10th anniversary, the ReStore will hold an “Upcycled Art Auction” Saturday, August 23 from 6 to 9 pm at the Shed, 809 Paris Avenue in Port Royal. This is the site of the ReStore’s former location. As a run-up to this event, Lowcountry Weekly has been featuring articles about different aspects of the ReStore. This fourth and final article is about the anniversary event itself.

The ReStore’s Upcycled Art Auction, sponsored by BB&T Bank, to benefit LowCountry Habitat for Humanity in celebration of their 10th anniversary, will take place Saturday, August 23. However, preparation for this celebration started roughly a year ago. Ideas for it have been around even longer. LowCountry Habitat’s past executive director Barbara Thomas and current executive director Brenda Dooley had heard of ReStores in other parts of the country doing “upcycled” events, with artist volunteers taking items off the floor of the ReStore, then applying their time and talent to create new works of craft and art. They communicated this to ReStore manager Jenny Drake who started brainstorming with a volunteer committee.

“The upcycling idea fit so well with what we do at the ReStore, it seemed like a perfect way of celebrating and combining that with fundraising,” Drake summarized. The artists and craftsmen have repurposed, recycled, reclaimed or reimagined these works that will be sold the night of August 23 in silent as well as English style auction.

Honorary chair for the event is well-known Lowcountry artist Cassandra Gillens. Entertainment will be by the charming and talented Sweetgrass Angels. Artist and entrepeneur Deanna Bowdish is auctioneer. Radio station 94.5 The Coast will be broadcasting live from the site.

ReStore volunteers Beth Patterson and Kathy Paulik were asked to co-chair the event, and they jumped in– planning and organizing, recruiting committee chairmen and dividing the labor, then keeping the train moving as 2014 rolled around and each task was accomplished, each assignment checked off in turn. Other planners, designers, art and sponsor recruiters, committee chairs, red-tape cutters and problem-solvers are Susie Gombocz, Barbara Krakehl, Milt Lawrence, Cindy Schafer, Denise Sullivan, Bobbi Weber, Nancy DePalo, Jenny Drake and many more who are providing invaluable assistance.

Patterson notes that putting this celebration together continues as a challenge, but knowing that the ReStore and Habitat are beneficiaries, as well as being able to work with the other planning committee members, makes it all vastly satisfying. “It’s also been fun to see the growing excitement of the artists. We’re up to about 80 now,” she said.

Honorary chair Cassandra Gillens was born in Boston. However, almost every year during her childhood, she would come visit her grandparents in Port Royal. She has vivid memories of riding a Greyhound bus from Massachusetts to Beaufort and then spending long summer days here playing with friends, helping her grandmother with chores around the house and garden, and learning about life in the Lowcountry. She was fascinated with local jobs – shrimping, farming, shopkeeping, as well as the people she met around the neighborhood – by the water, at church, visiting the house and interacting with each other in the town in settings and situations she would remember. She also sometimes stayed on with her grandmother during the school year, so she got to know the Lowcountry and local neighbors, through four seasons.

Gillens’s earliest recollection of getting involved with art was drawing chalk pictures on the sidewalks of Roxbury, Ma. She fondly remembers calendar pages of the artist Norman Rockwell’s usually lighthearted paintings of everyday life during work, at play and many other situations. She credits his work with inspiring her to begin to store images of ordinary persons going about their daily lives.

Gillens finished school in Massachusetts, married and moved to different places around the country. Finally, in the early 90’s, she returned to Beaufort to stay. She began painting designs and pictures on objects for her own use as home décor in the mid-90’s- pillows, the house’s interior doors and other things. These seemed to turn out well, and her husband Ben suggested she try painting commercially.

That was in 1999. She was entirely self-taught, but she developed a style. She used acrylic paints, usually black, and worked on white canvas. “My people were like shadows,” she states. A daughter suggested she add colorful clothing to the people and give them some variation of skin color – brown, tan, etc., as well as black. She soon was exhibiting paintings at various galleries around town and selling them too. A cautionary event contributed to Gillens’s silhouette style of painting people. When she started showing her work to others, some people thought they saw themselves or relatives in the characters on the canvas. “Suddenly, I became concerned someone might sue me,” she notes. That is when she decided to stay with her signature silhouette faces – men, women and children dressed in vibrantly colored clothing, working, playing, talking, going to church, interacting in a simple but appealing setting. It must be the Lowcountry.

Now Gillens’ paintings and prints are exhibited and sold through several galleries. She is collected in North America and Europe. Her paintings hang in the Myrtle Beach Museum and the Harvey Gantt Center in Charlotte. They were used in the film “Nights in Rodanthe.” Two original pieces were used as artwork in the 2013 HGTV Dream Home at Kiawah, and she has been featured in Southern Living magazine, to name a few of her accomplishments.

The ReStore is pleased to have Cassandra Gillens as the honorary chair of this 10th anniversary event. “I donate to a lot of charities, but I feel a personal connection with Habitat and the ReStore because of their work,” she says. In addition to lending her name as honorary chair, she is donating one of her door paintings to be sold at auction during the evening.

Many other artists and craftsmen are generously donating paintings, sculpture, and other pieces they are known for, or they are going the “repurposed, reimagined” route and turning donations off the ReStore floor into new artistic creations. The number of artistic contributors, their time and talents donated are truly remarkable. The artwork is attractive and exciting. Among the 80 participating artists, some who have already delivered their works are Julia Anderson, Kathy Crowther, Lauren DeLoach, Chuck Gardner, Hideaki (Aki) Kato, Nicci Martin, Linda Randazzo, Mac Rogers, and Sonnal Thompson.

The Shed in Port Royal was the site of the first Beaufort area ReStore back in 2004. But that was not the first use of that building – far from it. The full, exact history of the Shed is clouded to say the least. Some persons may know it, but they are difficult to track down. People say it was a storage warehouse for a shipping company that moved military personal effects from one assignment to another. It might have been used somehow when the Port of Port Royal was involved in transporting kaolin slurry, a chemical used in papermaking. It might have been a warehouse for a beer distributor. It was used several years ago as a theater building for live performances, and as a dance studio. Now the Shed is rented out for events such as this Upcycled Art Auction.

LowCountry Habitat ReStore manager Jenny Drake reflects, “When I took on this job 10 years ago, I was very excited the ReStore could be a fund raiser to help Habitat build more houses. I don’t think I could have predicted the great success we’ve had, but I’ve learned we have a generous community willing to support worthwhile causes, such as building safe, decent and affordable homes for deserving families in need.” Drake is pleased with the ongoing ReStore recycling- thoughtful and generous donors contributing all manner of things to the ReStore, that are thus kept from going into landfills, and become merchandise the store sells to raise funds to help build more Habitat houses. More donations, more volunteers, more shoppers, more generosity, more Habitat houses for more families- if Drake and the other staff and the many volunteers are able to keep recruiting and keep this cycle going, the ReStore and LowCountry Habitat will be around as long as there is a need, longer even than another 10 years.


WHAT? An Upcycled Art Auction, Sponsored by BB&T Bank, to benefit Lowcountry Habitat for Humanity in celebration of the ReStore’s 10th anniversary. Other sponsors are The Lowcountry Weekly and United Way. Included will be great food, drink, entertainment and the chance to bid on beautiful and unique pieces of art donated by dozens of generous artists.

WHEN? Saturday, August 23, 2014, from 6-9 pm

WHERE? The Shed, 809 Paris Avenue, Port Royal

TICKETS? Are $25 each, are available at the ReStore, 612 Parris Island Gateway, Port Royal, also on the website www.lowcountryhabitat.org. These are strictly limited and advance purchase is required.