story and photos by Brittany Ransom
Project Compassion wasn't kidding around on Tuesday (April 1) evening as it kicked off its Designer Showhouse event with a Celebration Ball at the Fort Smith Convention Center.
Upon arrival, guests were treated to dinner and drinks, along with the sounds of the Don Bailey Jazz Combo. Tables were topped with elegant bottles of wine, which guests enjoyed while browsing through the official showhouse program.
The program included pictures of each room in Project Compassion's 2014 Designer Showhouse, along with bios and details about the 13 participating creative professionals. The book also included photos of the stylish furnishings and artwork chosen to fill the showhouse.
Located at 4 Berry Hill Road in Fort Smith, the mid-century home was built in the 1950s, by the late A.Y. Berry, Jr., who, with his wife Frances "Chee", raised six children there. The house boasts spectacular views and distinct architectural features. Unique design elements are enhanced by classic furnishings and artwork selected from the Center for Art and Education specifically for the showhouse tours. The Berry Family, who still owns the property, generously donated the home to be used for the Project Compassion benefit.
The project was organized by well-known designer and "showhouse extraordinaire," Earl Douglas. Douglas, who served as the project producer, director and committee chairman, has designed 10 showhouses around the country and led similar efforts, including a benefit in Monaco for the International Red Cross.
Following dinner, the live auction got underway. Up for grabs were a number of big ticket items, including one-of-a-kind jewelry, a mink coat, and extravagant getaway packages. Guests bid thousands of dollars on emerald and diamond rings, trips for two to Italy, and the chance to charter a private jet.
Tickets for the ball were $65. Organizers hoped to raise at least $40,000 from the ball and tours.
"We are so grateful to everyone who had a hand in making the showhouse a reality and in making tonight such a success," said Abbie Taylor-Cox, Project Compassion executive director. "Earl did an amazing job, as did each of the participating artists, designers, and volunteers. We are excited to welcome the public to tour this beautiful home in the coming weeks."
All proceeds from the ball and tours will benefit Project Compassion, a non-profit volunteer organization that recruits, trains and places volunteers in six local counties to visit with residents in 24 area nursing homes.
"We have about 300 active volunteers that visit residents in 35 nursing homes, especially those with no friends or family," said Taylor-Cox. "Project Compassion also has Hearts of Gold at Christmas, making sure each resident receives warm clothing for winter along with socks and personal items."
The showhouse will formally debut on Wednesday to the public. It will be open for tours Monday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., and on Sundays from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. through April 30. Admission is $12, with special group discounts available. For more information, call 479-783-2273.