Living the Sweet Life: An Artist’s Calling

By Alisa Murray
Nationally recognized
portrait artist and award-
winning columnist.

Through the years, I have been compelled to use my talents as a photographer to give back to my community. My first project back in 2002 was a ten-year run of breast cancer calendars titled Hope and Inspiration, which provided an opportunity for each of us to contribute to research and helping those diagnosed with the disease but also for those with the disease to leave a memory behind for their children and loved ones.

Then, there was the Small Miracles project, where I created calendars for seven years and wrote and recorded a song to help families who had children diagnosed with cancer. For the Hope Endowment Foundation, I traveled to India and captured beautiful children who had been saved from harm and given a future through an orphanage that our local physicians created.  All of these endeavors I have defined under my Art and Medicine projects, and I take pride in my association with these philanthropic initiatives.  For what is it to be here on earth and to see someone struggling and turn away?  I simply cannot do that.

Recently I was made aware of a very special place in Houston that serves homeless children in our community. Each year I host a food and toy drive during the holidays and make sure that those in need in our community are served with kindness and humility. This year marks our 20th year in giving. I am not alone in wanting to make a difference in our community, and many of you know I wear many hats as an entrepreneur. I represent another local artist who has written and recorded numerous albums. We recently met to shoot the cover for his latest Christmas piece, and I mentioned to him that we had selected The House Of Tiny Treasures as our philanthrophy this year. He immediately offered to also donate 5% of his proceeds from his Christmas CD to them as well. Needless to say, I am thrilled.

SEARCH’s The House of Tiny Treasures provides daycare and early childhood education to homeless children in Houston. Founded in 1992, they offer therapeutic and education services to our two- to five-year-olds born into poverty. Studies have shown that children who are born into such poverty have physical, psychological and emotional damage due to the circumstances that they have endured. The House of Tiny Treasures provides preschool education, teaches children the skills they need to self-regulate and build cognitive skills and problem solve so that they are well-prepared for success in kindergarten and in life. The ultimate goal of the house is to break the cycle of poverty and homelessness, knowing that breaking that cycle starts with the children.

The House of Tiny Treasures operates a full seven-day, year round program so that parents of the students can take the steps they need to get their lives back on track. Each student is provided with a quality education, support from a Family Service Case Manager, art, speech and play therapy by skilled professionals, nutritious breakfast, lunch and snacks daily, field trips and hands-on learning experiences, family education nights, periodic home visits and clothing, diapers, shoes and other basic clothing needs. According to the Coalition for the Homeless, in 2018 there were 4,143 individuals experiencing homelessness in the Greater Houston area. This represents a 51% reduction since 2011; however, it was the first time in seven years the numbers have increased. Stats reveal that trend breaking, and the increase has been impacted by Hurricane Harvey.

I am helping, and Lonny Mead is helping and in this beautiful month as we embrace our families in our homes and count our blessings, it is better to give than to receive. What could be a better lesson to teach our children than to see a need and fill it – to be grateful and to give back?

I am collecting items for The House of Tiny Treasures, and I invite you to drop them off to me for distribution. Needed items include diapers and swim diapers sizes five to six, baby wipes, hand sanitizer, laundry detergent, band aids, first-aid wipes, insect repellent, travel size toothpaste, child size toothbrushes, water and clothing and shoes sizes three to seven. A big part of our annual giving is to provide toys for those children who will not get a Christmas toy as well, so I am also collecting unwrapped toys and bikes. Please text me at 713.598.2207, and I will let you know when to drop off and where. I look forward to seeing our community come together on this one. When we look back on our lives, we truly are each living a sweet life and sharing with those in need is what Thanksgiving is all about!

Take Care of you and

thanks in advance!