KENNEBUNKPORT — When Danie Connolly sees someone in need she uses her talents as a local artist and event organizer to bring people together and find a way to help.
“No need is too small, and we can all do one little thing to make a difference. When you are blessed with a gift you should use it for good,” Connolly said.
Over the years, Connolly has organized numerous art-centered benefits to raise money for a handful of local charities that help with hunger and homelessness. Connolly becomes even more animated than her normal effervescence when she talks about helping organizations that work to eliminate hunger in our own communities.
“Listen. Everyone thinks it has to be this big machine that’s going to solve all these problems.” she said. “But we have to do it ourselves. We need to take care of our own neighbors.”
Connolly is an accomplished artist and children’s book illustrator. She has used her influence and talents to rally the local art community for a number of creative fundraisers over the years.
This year she orchestrated The Great Peppermill Art Challenge with Salt & Honey Chef/Owner Jackson Yordan to raise money for Good Shepherd Food Bank and then moved on to hand-painted pillows, teaming up with interior designer Louise Hurlbutt for The Great Pillow Art Challenge.
Both fundraisers showcased the talents of local artists who created one-of-a-kind pieces of art that were auctioned off, bringing in thousands of dollars for charities including, Good Shepherd Food Bank, Portland’s Preble Street Teen Center and Community Outreach Services (COS) of the Kennebunks.
Connolly said she’s good at dreaming up the ideas and creating the vision, but when it comes to executing it she relies on the community of talented and giving people around her.
She started the popular Chocolate Extravaganza many years ago in February as a way to help people escape the winter doldrums. It morphed into an event that raised money for a variety of causes over the years.
Connolly’s efforts always have a fun flair to engage the community and bring people together.
She organized a fashion show to raise money for the American Heart Association, using local residents and high school students as models.
She used local people and their pets to recreate Norman Rockwell’s Saturday Evening Post pictures, and held an exhibit at town hall that was wildly successful.
“We did that for a couple of years. The first year on the first night we had 1,200 people there,” she said.
One year she knew people who were having trouble paying for heating oil, so she and an artist friend created paintings of businesses and sold them to the business to start a heating oil fund. They gave $3,000 to the state for seed money for a heating oil fund, which she said has grown to now provide statewide emergency heating assistance.
“We thought, ok we did pretty well for two little people, what can we do next?” she said.
Connolly’s message to someone who wants to help, but doesn’t know how is to “just listen.”
“The messages are out there. Social media works well to spread the message of people in need of help. Just listen. That person matters, If there’s something you can do, do it. Do it yourself. I don’t worry about the logistics, it always works out,” she said.