TACOMA – Local organizations that help shelter people who are homeless and survivors of domestic violence in Puget Sound received thousands of dollars in donations, thanks to incarcerated individuals from correctional facilities across Washington.
The 2020 Unguarded: Incarcerated Auction raised more than $12,000 for the YWCA of Seattle, King and Snohomish and YWCA of Pierce County. The auction, held at LeMay America’s Car Museum in February 2020, featured more than 200 pieces of art created by incarcerated individuals in state correctional facilities and one state juvenile detention center across the state.
“This event spotlights the good that is happening inside,” said Department of Corrections Reentry Navigator Kim Beckham. “The men and women inside our fences know what is happening in our communities and want to help. They did make choices that led to their incarceration, but that doesn’t mean they would make those same choices if their circumstances were different; trauma often leads to more trauma. This year, the artists were excited to choose the YWCA because of the important work it does.”
The event, one of many coordinated through Washington’s Combined Fund Drive, was the second ever statewide charity auction featuring artwork by incarcerated individuals. In 2018, Beckham helped coordinate the first Unguarded Art Auction, which raised $11,845 for the American Red Cross and hurricane victims living along the Gulf Coast and in Puerto Rico.
The initial idea for the auction came from two incarcerated individuals at Cedar Creek Corrections Center, who had seen the devastation of hurricanes Irma, Harvey and Maria on TV in the facility’s day room. The individuals came to Beckham with the idea of making and selling artwork to raise money for charity. Soon Beckham was working with an advisory panel of incarcerated individuals, local community organizations and correctional administrators from all over the state to hold the auction. The auction is now a regular event–and incarcerated individuals choose a charitable organization as a recipient.
“The YWCA Pierce County is thrilled to benefit from this fundraiser because it focuses on healing and empowerment,” said Miriam Barnett, CEO of the YWCA of Pierce County. “We have always believed in the power of the arts as a way to express what is inside someone’s soul.”
Maria Chavez Wilcox, CEO of the YWCA of Seattle, King and Snohomish counties, noted that the YWCA is largest provider of domestic violence services for African-American women in King County. Events like this help the YWCA of Seattle, King and Snohomish support its vision of a healthy community transformed by racial and gender equity, where women and girls of color have equal access to opportunity and social justice for all people.
“We are thrilled to be part of the Unguarded Art Auction and a community that shares our values of dignity, justice and equity,” Chavez Wilcox said.
Washington’s Combined Fund Drive runs its annual campaign from October through the end of December. The Department of Corrections is an active participant with staff fundraisers across the agency. Corrections employees pledged more than $188,000 to charities through the Combined Fund Drive in 2019.