Fundraiser for animal shelter to auction off shoes painted by inmates

If life imitated lyrics, an invitation to All 4 Paws Animal Rescue organization’s adoption event, fundraiser and art festival might mirror the motto of Jackie DeShannon’s 1969 hit single “Put a little love in your heart.”

All 4 Paws founder, Shannon Prouty, and Breathe’s Shantelle Patterson have come up with a way to entice the community to come together and think of their fellow men and furry friends with just one word: fun.

The fundraiser and festival will be held at Breathe, an artist collective and boutique located at 9674 Ocean Highway in Pawleys Island on Saturday from noon-4 p.m.

“It’s going to be fun, fun, fun!” said Prouty.

Patterson agreed.

“We will have vendors set up in our parking lot with over-flow parking in the rear, there will be live music, a mermaid, food from our café, an adoption event … and fun that’s free!” she said.

Local band Sweet Tea will entertain guests with easy listening, family friendly island music while the indoor café will offer island fare featuring jerk chicken, pork and burgers.

An auction will be held “around 3ish,” said Patterson, who rattled off a list of a few of the local businesses who have donated gift cards: Lowes Foods, Hog Heaven, Surf the Earth, Grouchos and more.

In addition, there will also be art from inmates at the Federal Correction Inmate facility in Williamsburg County who have donated aournd 60 pairs of painted shoes that will also be part of Saturday’s auction.

The shoes were sent as a gift to Prouty after she went to Williamsburg County’s federal facility and met with inmates who were involved in a class project initiated by Warden Maureen Cruz.

Focusing on using their artistic skills as a means to survive, the class “teaches the inmates sustainable skills from concept to completion,” said Cruz.

The story behind the shoes and idea to lend a helping hand began when Patterson met Prouty.

“My mom wanted a labradoodle so, one day I went over to All 4 Paws. ... After talking with Shannon (Prouty) I ended up getting a tour of the new facility too – which is awesome – and that got me thinking ‘what can we do to help?’” Patterson said.

Plans for the event soon came together.

Then Patterson and Prouty met Cruz.

Cruz, who is working with inmates and honing what is called “re-entry” skills, is also enabling the inmates to take a talent and learn how to use it to generate an income.

Along with sustainable skills, “we teach them not to let discouragement become a deterrent, either,” said Cruz.

Inmates who participate in Cruz’s classes “all have artistic skills” and “will someday be someone’s neighbor.”

“It’s great you can paint,” Cruz said she told her inmates.

She then decided to devise a way to teach the merchandising and marketing skills necessary to “put food on the table and a roof over their heads” using that artistic ability.

Cruz also noted that by teaching self-sufficiency, it reduces the amount of dependency the recently released have on government programs, therefore saving taxpayer dollars and alleviating some the burden placed on smaller communities.

“None of this is about about me though,” Cruz said, praising All 4 Paws for doing “remarkable” things throughout the community.

Prouty was equally supportive of Cruz. “She wants to see a change and she really and truly cares about doing that.”

While neither one was the least bit worried who was making the biggest pawprint, promoting positivity and bringing the community together is what Prouty said she likes doing best. “I’d rather have people recognize us for the good we do.”

Using kindness as a guide, Prouty and Patterson traveled to the Williamsburg County facility with an entourage that included Patterson, photographer James Stivers, two puppies “who still had puppy breath” and a kitten all so Prouty – who holds degrees in art therapy and psychology – could talk with the inmates about their art while offering encouragement and ideas.

She “addressed (the inmates) as artists,” said Cruz.

After speaking to the group of inmates, Prouty said “we talked with them and let them interact with the animals. They told us their stories, showed us their amazing art and they got to feel fur and embrace unconditional love for the first time in over 10 years.”

When the inmates were later told the shoes they’d donated to All 4 Paws would be auctioned at the fundraiser event with 100 percent of the proceeds to benefit All 4 Paws, the result was “transformational” said Cruz.

“It’s something that’s real (to them),” said Cruz, who explained that while it’s not publicized often, inmates aren’t strangers to donating. “They’ve pulled together (on many occasions) raising the money to donate to various causes.”

That’s how the story of the shoes got started. “They were looking for a nonprofit, they heard about Shannon and All 4 Paws and it went from there.”

Patterson also said one of the vendor booths at Saturday’s event will have art from FCI on display.

Along with the hope this will be the first of an ongoing and annual event, Cruz, who will retire in January, said her hope is “the relationship will go on” between FCI and All 4 Paws.