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Cary Magazine Lazy Daze Proceeds help Cary nonprofits

Cary Magazine – August 2013 Issue

Written by Christa Leupen – Photographed by Jonathan Fredin

Cary Lazy Daze Art FestivalWhile 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 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 fist 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 yo 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, Life Experiences, Friends of the Page-Walker Hotel, and The Carying Place.

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.

“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 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 Cary nonprofit Life Experiences and Lazy Daze event has applied for 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 setting 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,” Managanaro 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.”