The Crowd: Decorative Arts Society focuses on care, well-being

Make no mistake, we are not out of the proverbial woods economically.

Tough times persist, especially for those struggling the most. Nonprofits are working harder for donations to cover expenses and maintain ongoing efforts assisting people in need in the community.

On a positive note, one small but dedicated nonprofit based in Newport-Mesa and known as the Decorative Arts Society seeks grant applicants to be the recipients of their fundraising efforts in the coming year.

Known as the DARTS, this group of 16 women and their supportive friends have quietly been making a difference in the lives of needy women and children in Orange County for many years. To date they have donated $1.1 million to select nonprofits in increments of $5,000 to as much as $40,000 per year, with some organizations receiving multiyear commitments.

For the 2010-11 season, recipients included Casa Teresa, Laura's House, Mariposa and Women Helping Women. Their average annual funding totals approximately $90,000 divided among chosen grant recipients.

The Decorative Arts Society is inviting all local nonprofits focusing on the care, health and well-being of local women and children to apply for its 2012 grants.

"Agencies do not need an invitation to apply," said DARTS spokeswoman Bonnie McClellan. "We know that there are many nonprofits that need help and because of the small size of our group, we may not be acquainted with all of them."

McClellan added that applications are open to any nonprofit that meets the DARTS mission of helping women and children in Orange County. Further, the financial request may be for a single specific program, event, activity, or for an ongoing program.

Charities chosen to receive the DARTS funding may be awarded funds for up to three consecutive years. Then they must step down for one year; however, they may reapply again after that period.

McClellan referred to DARTS' recent support of Casa Teresa and Laura's House as examples of assistance that demonstrated tangible investment in the lives of individuals assisted.

"Our funding last year at Casa Teresa served 78 mothers, 49 babies and one teen, helping them recover from homeless and workless situations giving them the chance to 'begin again,'" said McClellan, adding, "At Laura's House we funded an art program aimed at children living in difficult family situations, helping them to express themselves through art."

To learn more and/or to get a grant application, email Bonnie at Applications are due by Feb. 28 and grants will be announced in June.

THE CROWD runs Thursdays and Saturdays. B.W. Cook is editor of the Bay Window, the official publication of the Balboa Bay Club in Newport Beach.

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