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SCV Arts & Entertainment | A Valentine for Women, Art, and Community

Uploaded 02/15/2017

A Valentine for Women, Art, and Community

It’s time for the one and only event – Empowering HeArts.

Now in its seventh year, Empowering HeArts has recognized women for their ability to rise above overwhelming circumstances. Each year a relevant theme embodies the persona of the honorees.

This year “Courage” shines through the life of each honoree as well as the artwork depicted by a celebrated artist.

The gala held at Savia in Newhall, created an intimate setting for the one-night reception held on February 11, 2017. Single Mothers Outreach former executive director, DaAnne Smith was in attendance, handing the baton, in effect, to the new face of Single Mothers Outreach, Yorleni Sapp. Nine months at the helm, Sapp has transitioned into the role and implemented new programs – including a teen/young mom program assisting young moms in high school and into their early twenties.

“We help moms of all ages who have children under the age of 18 in Santa Clarita. We invite anybody who knows of any teen mom in Santa Clarita to really reach out to us so that we can best help them,” says caseworker, Kelly Rivas.

Empowering HeArts is Single Mothers Outreach primary fundraiser, now held in February.

“We celebrate today Empowering HeArts which is our annual gala. What we do is celebrate women in this community that have overcome hardship in life,” said Yorleni Sapp.

“We have over 400 moms in our program and if you count the kids, it’s over 1000 people we’re impacting,” said Martin Rodriguez, Single Mothers Outreach board chair.

Six honorees and six artists were paired to tell a personal story of courage.
“I love being part of this organization. I love that my work can have social significance,” says artist Cecily Willis.

Wood panels to 3D glasses were new installations, as well as traditional art capturing the essence of each honoree.

“When I first saw the painting I got goosebumps and then I put the (3D) glasses on and it brought something else to life,” said honoree, Monica Blanco.

“This is my first time participating in this event. I wanted to give back to the community using my talent,” says artist, Aazam Irilian.

As a special keepsake, the honorees are presented the artwork to treasure their special celebration.

“I really hope that I am an inspiration to other people who are going through the same thing,” says honoree Janelle Percy.

“For me, it was another opportunity to create a piece that did touch me personally,” said artist Chloe Joy deJong.

The event is also a competition in which the artwork is judged and presented a ‘Dottie Award” on behalf of Single Mothers Outreach and a “People’s Choice Award” voted by those in attendance. This year for the first time, the artwork by Dawn Grider representing Martha Aguilera received both awards.

“It reminds me that, during times of weakness, there is still strength. Strength comes out of struggle. Struggle makes us stronger,” says Grider.

“Breaking barriers is something that we’ve all had to do at some point and time, so why not help someone else do it,” said Aguilera.

Civic and community leaders have committed their time to attending the event, many out of admiration of their own mothers – a struggle witnessed firsthand.

“It’s super important to me to be here because I was raise by a single mother. My mom was left with five children by herself. She worked three jobs to take care of her family, to raise us,” says California Assembly member, Dante Acosta.

Inspiration to press on was shared on and off the stage permeating the two-hour event.

“Psalm 27, my favorite verse, gave me strength to continue to have courage,” said honoree Nicole Feast-Williams.

“It was very inspiring and I got to share the stage with five other beautiful, amazing, inspiring women,” said honoree Kamilla Diaz.

Past honorees and artists enjoyed cheering and celebrating the courageous women of Empowering HeArts. A mutual bond seems to be formed as art and hearts encourage each to rise above past, present, and future challenges.

This is just a wonderful event and I congratulate all of the honorees, says Gloria Mercado-Fortine, a past honoree.

The 2017 Empowering HeArts “Courage” representatives:
Nicole Feast-Willams, Honoree Chloe Joy deJong, Artist

Monica Blanco, Honoree Aazam Irilian, Artist

Kim Flores, Honoree Cecily Willis, Artist

Kamilla Diaz, Honoree Kirby Lanier, Artist

Janelle Percy, Honoree Yoonhee Aprahamian, Artist

Martha Aguilera, Honoree Dawn Grider, Artist

“Watch out for 2017. Single Mothers Outreach is going to be awesome,” said Rodriguez.

Gloria Locke is producer and director of SCV-Arts & Entertainment covering Santa Clarita and the greater Los Angeles area.
She is also a professional artist hosting workshops, classes, and camps in Santa Clarita and Burbank. Visit for more information.

(c) 2017 SCVTV
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