For nearly a decade, the board of directors of Dawn Center of Hernando County, a certified domestic and sexual violence center, has hosted an annual silent auction and wine tasting event called “A Night of Hope”; a gala evening that also included music and live entertainment. And the event that started with just 30 guests in a model home quickly grew in recent years to include nearly 150 guests per year. Yet as is the case with a good number of live events, this year’s Night of Hope will be dramatically different this year–thus giving credence to the old adage, “The More, the Better.”
The 36 Nights of Hope virtual auction will be celebrated Nov. 2-Dec. 7, benefiting Dawn Center of Hernando County.
“While we will miss seeing our guests in person, the good news is that A Night of Hope has been extended to 36 Nights of Hope and guests can still offer their support from the safety of their own homes by participating in our online virtual auction,” said Shannon Sokolowski, MNM Executive Director of Dawn Center. “Event sponsorships, as well as items and/or services from local businesses are still needed to bring this event to life.”
For while the format and presentation of this event have changed, the need for this benefit is ever-present–and greater than ever.
“The event has grown to be Dawn Center‘s largest fundraising event each year, the proceeds of which are essential to operating every part of the agency’s programming and are also used as required match funds to leverage state and federal grants that help to fund the balance of the operations,” said Sokolowski. “This year, with the threat of COVID-19 upon us, our planning committee was not certain that the event could be conducted while keeping the safety of our guests at top of mind. However, $18,000 is needed to maintain the current level of services with last year so the decision was made to launch an online auction in its place.”
This event holds special meaning for Brittney Oakland, volunteer committee chairperson for this year’s Nights of Hope.
“I am a survivor of Domestic Violence and I have participated in services that the Dawn Center offer,” Oakland revealed. “After successfully completing my programs, I met with a lady from the center who asked to take a video and talk about how their services had helped me. She then later asked me if I would be interested in joining the board. I ended up joining and have been on the fundraising committee since I started. The last two years I have been the president of the board and I have been the chairperson for Night of Hope.”
In previous years, Night of Hope tasting offerings had expanded to include beer tastings from Marker 48, along with food offerings from many local restaurants. Auction items were donated by a variety of local businesses at the event, with guests enjoying entertainment from event emcee Billy Healis and saxophone player Dell Barnes, and hearing about the life-saving programs and services offered at Dawn Center as they submitted silent bids on available items.
“I have really enjoyed watching the event blossom and grow larger every year,” said Oakland. “With how this year has been, I am sad that the event will be virtual but always happy to raise money for an organization that helped me in one of the hardest times of my life.”
Sponsorships of varying levels are available for the Nights of Hope event. Auction organizers also are accepting in-kind donations of auction items. If a business, organization, or individual wishes to donate merchandise for the Nights of Hope, contact the Dawn Center Community Engagement Coordinator at 352-639-0892 or 352-684–7191 or [email protected].
“We genuinely appreciate the support of our community!” said Sokolowski.