Not so many years ago, the Gulfport Community Players produced a nude calendar as a fundraiser: Backstage Babes. Every woman was artfully covered, sure, but it was still a bunch of naked ladies, and even though they were well-past Playboy centerfold age, the calendars didn’t exactly gather dust on a shelf. People bought it. Some, I imagine, because they were family and friends, some to support the theatre group, and others because… well, a naked lady is still a naked lady, even if she ain’t 19 and 90 pounds.
I proudly posed as Miss October. Not proud because I hold any illusions about how I look naked, but proud because I thought the calendar was sheer genius. The Gulfport Players, under the firm leadership of Eileen Navarro (who, coincidentally, cajoled and corralled almost every female volunteer into posing), have creatively found funding and donations to buy their own rehearsal hall and pay for regular performance space in the city theatre. The calendar didn’t fund all that – credit goes in no small part to a generous donation from former councilwoman Dawn Fisher – but Eileen’s shrewd fundraising didn’t hurt, either.
The problem is, not every worthwhile group has a pack of ladies willing to take their clothes off. At least, not for charity. One of my very favorites, the Gulfport Historical Society, needs help like you wouldn’t believe. They’re kind of limping along, not doing all sorts of cool things that they could be doing. I asked them why, and I received a straightforward answer: the volunteer base is dwindling as the volunteers die. Also, they could use money. Apparently we – myself included – all like to talk a lot about our reverence for history and our respect for our past, but, it seems, when it comes to putting our money and feet where our mouths are, that’s where it ends: with talk.
I’m the worst offender. Ten years ago I volunteered with the Gulfport Community Players, but eventually that dwindled to nothing but memories. I’ve taken photos over the years of every community group we have, I think, but work for free and love of community? That’s another story. I’m disappointed in all of us, myself included. As a teenager, my mom drove me to the library to volunteer and later to the hospital to do the same. I was raised that you give something back without expecting a paycheck. As an adult, I’m ashamed to say I lost the message.
Which brings me back to the Gulfport Historical Society. They used to have these great dances every year, right about this time, I believe, and every dance had a theme relating to a certain decade. I asked them why they stopped doing the other sort of dances. Turns out that those dances? Yeah, they were a lot of work, and the Society’s skeleton crew has a lot on their plate already. They need bodies to keep going, and it seems that the younger generation – my generation? – well, we’re not exactly doing much of anything, certainly not arranging a themed dance.
Except two ladies – for political reasons, it isn’t important who right now – have arranged to hold a dance Friday (look for them on Facebook as “Friends of the Gulfport Groove”), charge a minimal cover ($5 in advance or $6 at the door) and give the all the proceeds to the Gulfport Historical Society. It’s not a decade–themed dance like the Society used to hold, but it’s still a fundraiser. It’s a marriage of happy convenience: the girls want a place to dance, and the Society needs money.
Since I doubt many of us have the time or inclination to plan a benefit dance at the Casino, we have to find other options. We can volunteer. We can send money. We can do both. You can find another organization in town that could use your skills or time and do the same. I will start volunteering with the Society starting next month. I encourage you to find a local group – the Gulfport Community Players, a city committee, Friends of the Gulfport Library, Gulfport Elementary, or whatever group does it for you – and ask them how you can help.
Of course, going to Friday night’s dance makes for a good first step.
The alternative? Well, you could offer to pose naked for a calendar to help them raise money.
See you at the dance.
Contact Cathy Salustri at CathySalustri@theGabber.com.