Charity Wings Has a Colorful and Hopeful Vision
Written By: Jessica Young San Diego Charity Wings
Photographed By: Jimmy Galt San Diego Charity Wings Arts and Crafts
It started with a trip around Europe. After traveling abroad in her mid-twenties, Charity Wings’ founder, Elena Lai Etcheverry, was looking for a way to compile the memories from her adventures overseas. She stumbled upon a scrapbooking workshop and, like her traveling snapshots to her patterned pages, she had an idea that stuck.
Elena loved the sense of community that she felt as she sat at a table of other memory makers, sorting through piles of chipboard, stickers and colored paper. She quickly realized there was an opportunity within the creative world she had stumbled upon.
“I realized that art is healing. Art is community. And that’s where this idea developed from…this idea that we can gather and give back to our world while we’re creating,” she said.
In 2005, she founded Scrapbook Royalty, which fundraised for non-profits through scrapbooking events. Attendees would pay a fee to attend a scrapbooking party, and then memory makers would come together, craft and socialize, and raise money for designated causes. From there, Elena never looked back. Since the organization began, she has coordinated events that raised more than $300,000 for over 70 different causes. At its peak, the organization hosted 37 events in a single year.
“The events are so rewarding for me. I love being creative in the project and then planning. Watching the idea happen, from the ground up, and watching it come to life, is amazing. The best part is when it all comes together to support some great cause,” she expressed.
After operating as Scrapbook Royalty for several years, Elena realized that by broadening her artistic mediums, she could reach a broader base of participants and supporters. In 2011, Scrapbook Royalty became Charity Wings and began organizing creative events in a variety of mixed media arts.
Charity Wings continued to evolve as their base of resident artists, supporters and participants grew. The organization opened a brick and mortar facility in San Marcos, which quickly became a hub for the North County arts community. Charity Wings established resident artists who taught classes on a recurring basis and offered memberships that helped fund the needs of the center and gave participants access to all the organization’s resources. Having a physical space also made it easier to coordinate and host events, as well as compile materials and resources for projects. The revenue from memberships and events now helps fund the organization itself, while simultaneously supporting endorsed causes. Supporters and artists can pay per class, through a membership or use the creative space at an hourly rate.
At the peak of their activity, Charity Wings was hosting weekly events at their center, as well as producing theater performances and coordinating events like Open Mic nights. Organizations, like Easter Seals, have brought visitors to the center, where they were able to participate in projects and classes—things like making handmade soaps, wood burning coasters and more. Many of these participants often faced physical or mental disabilities, so the art was made accessible at a variety of different skill levels. Through Wounded Warriors, Marines experiencing PTSD were able to participate in a four-week arts workshop facilitated by Charity Wings’ artists. They created masks, illustrations of their lives and recreated records into visual displays of the power of song.
“At the end of our time with them, one of the Marines said that the art he created spoke more to his family about his experiences than any words he had been able to say to them. That was really powerful and moving for me. Art is such an amazing form of expression and healing for all of us,” she added.
The impact that Charity Wings has had on the local community is undeniable. The organization has also been able to harness the power of the arts and creativity and turn it into financial support for many worthy causes. Because of their success, Elena was approached by the organizers of the San Diego County Fair and asked to oversee the Home & Hobby exhibits during the month-long run at the Del Mar Fairgrounds. With a baby that was due in August, Elena had to make the trying decision to put her efforts with Charity Wings on hold, while she prepared for and adjusted to her new role as a mother.
“This partnership with the fair really came at the perfect time for me. So much is in transition with the center, so being able to still bring art into the community, even while we’re closed, is really important to me. I love that people can come to the fair and have the chance to play creatively,” she explained.
While the immediate future for Charity Wings is not certain, Elena has committed to returning for the 2019 San Diego County Fair. The organization will continue to adapt and will, as always, be a place for people to gather, create and give back.
Baby Magic: Elana’s work with Charity Wings has not only been an effort to bring comfort, healing and creativity to those around her but to experience it herself, as well. After several unsuccessful rounds of in vitro fertilization, she learned she was pregnant in early 2018.
Squad Goals: Since Charity Wings’ conception, they have moved from solely fundraising for other organizations to collaborating and partnering with them to further their missions through art and creativity, like United Cerebral Palsy, local Boys & Girls Clubs, The Friendship Circle, Wounded Warrior Homes and so much more.
Native Knowledge: Check out the Charity Wings website for constant updates on recurring events and new opportunities to get creative!
Del Mar Fairgrounds
2260 Jimmy Durante Blvd San Diego Charity Wings
Del Mar, CA 92014 San Diego Charity Wings
858.755.1161 San Diego Charity Wings