By Jay Taylor

The 2023 Seeds of Change Gala, Maricopa’s premier charitable and social event, raised about $10,000 more than a year ago, according to organizers.

This year’s gala, a semi-formal gathering with a masquerade theme, sold out Harrah’s Ak-Chin Hotel & Casino Events Center as people from across Maricopa came together to support a charitable cause that raised about $80,000 after expenses, according to organizer Torri Anderson.

Proceeds from the Feb. 25 ball benefit the Maricopa Women’s and Children’s Domestic Violence Shelter, which is operated by Against Abuse Inc. The group has served Pinal County for more than 40 years.

“We . . . reached our capacity of 350 guests,” Anderson said. “It is always great to have the community come out for a common cause.

“The masquerade (theme) was great. . . . You never know if people will do it, or think it’s silly. . . . It was a fun way to celebrate the season and play on the theme of coming out of COVID and having to wear masks all the time.”

Anderson added it was the most profitable in several years.

“I was very excited that we were able to make a video of people on a tour of the shelter this year,” she said. “I think it was really helpful for people to be able to see exactly where their money is going. That is a piece we added this year that was different from the past. It was the first time in the 40 years the agency has been in business that they have opened their doors for a tour like that, and I think it really made a difference.

“The goal was to make people know their money is going to a great cause.”

Anderson said Against Abuse Inc. works to keep administrative and overhead costs low, so most of the money goes directly to their programs.

“The last figure I got from our CPA at our last board meeting was 95 cents of every dollar goes directly to the program,” Anderson said.

Volunteerism also keeps costs down, she said. The organization, labor and setup for the gala all are provided by volunteers. According to Anderson, more than 750 volunteer hours went into organizing and staging the ball.

“We’re not a big organization that pays people to do those things,” she said. “We do them ourselves, and that’s how we can generate this kind of profit. It also helps when we live in a very generous and giving community and have incredible sponsors.”

For Anderson, the awareness generated by the gala is as important as the funds it raises. She added that people often don’t know what services of this nature are available until they need them.

“I am grateful and humble that for 18 years we’ve been able to serve the community,” she said. “There are so many great programs and resources in our city for victims of domestic violence, spousal abuse and other issues. Raising awareness of these issues allows us to open it up for discussion in a very respectful way, because it’s not always the easiest subject to talk about. People don’t want to acknowledge that it could be happening right on their own street.

“We have so many new people in the city who may not know what resources we have, so I hope they will take the opportunity to join us at the 2024 gala so we can let them know about our program and how it benefits the community.”

Through the lens of photographer Victor Moreno, here are the sights from the Seeds of Change gala: