Betsy Dassau

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Betsy_and_Joy2012 Hometown Spirit Award Co-Recipient

From nominators:   

Since moving to Cary in 1996, Betsy has leveraged her lifelong passion for the visual arts into an extensive portfolio of community service activities. As a founding member of Cary Portrait Artists, she has organized many exhibitions for the group at Cary venues such as Jordan Hall and Town Hall and continues to work with the group at the new Cary Arts Center. And, as a member of the Board of the Fine Arts League of Cary (FALC), Betsy takes a leadership role in the group’s sponsorship of exhibitions and art shows throughout the area.

Betsy has always had a keen interest in preserving our environment. Starting in 2009, the relationship of art and reuse connected for her in the form of Creative Reuse. She involved herself in Creative Reuse programs in other parts of the Triangle and the Southeast, learning by volunteering with an eye toward establishing a Creative Reuse program in the Cary community. With the encouragement of her network of support within the Cary arts community, Betsy founded the  Cary Creative Center and incorporated in November 2011 as a unique non-profit business that turns trash into treasure. Believing in the value this kind of business could bring to the development plans for Downtown Cary, Betsy worked tirelessly with the Downtown Cary Manager and other Town officials to establish a home for the Center downtown. In just the six months since opening its doors for business on Wilkinson Avenue in March 2012, the Center diverted 23 tons of materials, including all of the fixtures and racks used by the store itself, from going into local landfills. Its goal for the year is to collect 50 tons of discarded items that will be kept from degrading Cary’s streams, parks, sidewalks, or empty lots, reducing the costs to tax payers for processing for recycling and shipment to landfills.

The Center is helping change people’s attitude about trash by turning recyclable & reusable items of all types into a wide variety of arts & crafts supplies, fabrics and notions, educational, office, and party supplies.   In addition to conventional reuse, material brought into the Center is also “upcycled” (made more valuable through Creative Reuse). The Center collects donated items and then redirects these materials through their arts and crafts classes and by selling them at low prices at its retail store. The Center has sponsored many public outreach evens to build awareness and support for Creative Reuse, helping ensure that Cary remains an environmentally friendly and visually attractive town.

As a member of the Triangle Reuse Alliance Steering Committee, Betsy has worked at four Reuse Rodeos in the Triangle in 2011 and has helped organize and spearhead this year’s Cary Reuse Rodeo on Sept. 8th, where local people can donate gently used clothing, housewares, books, computers, art supplies and more to local charities for reuse in our community. It is Betsy’s mission to make art, not waste, and in doing so to keep Cary clean and green.

Betsy’s service to the community has extended to many other volunteer activities beyond her work with the Cary Creative Center. Working within the local schools, she was a two year volunteer of “Art Goes to School”, to link the elementary curriculum to works of art in the North Carolina Art Museum. She also volunteered with the Cary High School PTA, lending her love of the Arts in chairing the Reflections Program, and she led the largest PTA fundraising efforts in chairing the Proctor & Gamble Marketing Program, which raised more than $3,000 for the school.

For Spring Daze 2011, she painted a rain barrel for auction to support the Town’s Oasis program and scholarship programs in local recreation programs as part of the Town’s SPRUCE program. At that Spring Daze event, she also organized the FALC Paintout, to show artists at work and to promote the work of the nonprofit in support of the visual arts in Cary. Betsy has continued that community outreach and environmental awareness through creative reuse in community events for Halloween, Ole Time Winter Festival, Spring Daze, Cary Train Days, Ritmo Latino Festival, Child- Parent Night at Cary Elementary School and at Lazy Daze.

Betsy Dassau has not only embraced Cary as her hometown, but is doing her part to make it a desirable place for current and future residents to live and work. With her philosophy of reduce, reuse and recreate, she has created a successful and sustainable business in Downtown Cary that is helping the environment; improving our quality of life; reducing the cost of waste removal; providing jobs and fostering an awareness that one man’s trash is indeed another man’s treasure.

For these reasons, we nominate Betsy Dassau for the 2012 Hometown Spirit Award.

Nominated by: Ruth Merkle, Gregory Wong and Fay Beebe