Arise Gala celebrates two new nonprofits in Suffolk

Published 6:39 pm Tuesday, May 31, 2022

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Suffolk came together last week to support two women-led nonprofits in Suffolk.

The Arise Gala was held Thursday at the Suffolk Center for Cultural Arts to raise support for and celebrate the launch of Hope Center Suffolk and Cornerstone Ballet. The charities plan to serve the youth and women in the Suffolk and Western Tidewater communities.

The event drew more than 150 people and over $40,000 was raised. There were performances by dancers from Allonge Dance Academy, and speakers shared stories of those lost to drug addiction, including the story of Suffolk’s Tori Dail, who died of a heroin overdose in 2016.

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“Tonight is a celebration of what has been a long two-and-a-half year journey that reached a pinnacle on April 20,” said Rachael Culbertson, director of the Hope Center Suffolk, told gala attendees, speaking about the center’s planning-and-zoning approval by the City Council.

The Hope Center Suffolk helps to address drug and alcohol addictions and help people find a new and better life through Jesus Christ. It is part of Hope Center Ministries, which has locations across the country.

The Suffolk center will be for women and follow a three-phase program that includes vocational training focused on getting 100% of its residents into stable careers in the community. The Hope Center has more than 1,000 graduates with a 70% success rate.

Cornerstone Ballet is a nonprofit immersive youth ballet theater ministry started by Allonge Dance Academy in Suffolk. Its goal is to train, mentor and set young dancers apart both in their talents and their character. Being a Christian-based organization, there is a strong focus on compassion and integrity along with a focus on students’ God-given dancing talents.

“Cornerstone is where my passion for teens to find purpose, my understanding of how (addiction) steals potential and my own experiences as a dancer intersect,” said Amanda Short, founder of Cornerstone Ballet.

The organization also focuses on the drug problem that many dancers face. Statistics show that 1 in 4 dancers struggle with drug use to address pain and weight control. Of those who do become addicted, 60% of those dancers start at the age of 14. In light of these numbers, Cornerstone Ballet helps to keep its dancers on the right path.

“Charities are important to any community,” said Mayor Mike Duman, who led a live auction at the end of the evening. “These two organizations serve a valued group: young women.”