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Auction, gala set for LaBelle to benefit local ACT shelter

August 30, 2017
By ERIC DeVAUX ( , Lehigh Acres Citizen

An auction and gala will benefit programs and services for local victims and families.

Hosted by Abuse Counseling and Treatment Inc., the Silent No More Gala and Auction will be held Sept. 16 from 5 to 9 p.m. at the LaBelle Civic Center. The proceeds will go to the LaBelle shelter.

"Before it used to be two shelters in Lee County - Fort Myers and (Cape Coral)," Maricela Marado, supervisor at the shelter, said. "Two years ago, they were able to officially open the shelter here in LaBelle. There is a need out here."

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Abuse Counseling and Treatment Inc. logo

The proceeds will benefit the local area.

"All the funds that will be raised that night at the gala will be staying here locally in these counties for the shelter purposes to pertain to assist our clients, our participants - victims of domestic violence, sexual abuse, rape and human trafficking," Marado said.

Many of the auctions up for grab at the event feature local donations.

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"For example, we have two gift certificates for 60-minute massages that were donated from the chiropractic office in LaBelle," Savannah Rounds, an organizer for ACT, said. "One of the bigger ones we have right now is from a local personal chef."

The chef is Samuel Edwards.

"He's been a personal chef for celebrities such as Whoopi Goldberg, the Duck Dynasty boys," Rounds said. "He donated a dinner for up to 10 people."

Fact Box

Numbers to know

- 24-Hour Crisis Hotline


- Domestic Violence Hotline


- Sexual Assault Hotline


Source: Abuse Counseling and Treatment Inc.

Organizers are hoping to raise $15,000, which is more than last year.

"Last year, we had a luncheon and we didn't raise that much money," Rounds said.

She added that it was a Friday and not many people were able to get out of work.

"We didn't have a good turnout. We didn't make a good profit," Rounds said. "That's why I wanted to spearhead and do a gala."

According to officials, Southwest Florida is a bed for human trafficking.

"We're in the middle, especially out here in Hendry - Labelle and Moore Haven and, obviously, Fort Myers," Marado said. "It's right in the middle of all these bigger cities. Miami, we have it on one side, then we have Tampa on the other side. It's rural out here. It's easier to hide things."

She noted that LaBelle has seen its fair share of the illegal activity.

"There were three brothel houses out here," Marado said. "To see that it was in our own backyard, like so close to home, was just unreal."

ACT operates shelters for both men and women. The LaBelle shelter houses women.

"It's because of the structure of our shelters that we can't really provide that for the males right now because we have to provide safety for everybody," Marado said.

She pointed out that poverty is a local concern and it can lead to domestic violence.

"That is one of the main factors," Marado said. "If I'm the sole breadwinner and my partner isn't, or I force them not to work - it's definitely hard. Emotional abuse that has been going on."

Victims housed at the LaBelle shelter are not permitted to give out the address.

"If their fleeing from their abuser and they're going to a shelter, it's so they can be safe and away from him," Marado said. "We don't want him to be able to find her and hurt her."

The shelter also accepts children.

"Moms usually come with a child," she said. "I think the biggest family we've had is a family of six."

Staff try to make a family as comfortable as possible under the circumstances.

"We try to set it up to be as homey as possible where they have their living room, they have their kitchen," Marado said.

Tickets to the auction and gala are $50 per person or $90 for two tickets.

Sponsorships, including business branding recognition, are still available.

For information or tickets, visit: or call Jennifer Benton at 239-939-2553.

The civic center is behind the Labelle City Hall, at 481 W. Hickpochee Ave.



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