Giving Gala

Heart Bahamas Gala to raise funds during a fun night

Dex Brown, Brittany, Khalia, and Chris Pennerman

Hurricanes are not often spoken about during the winter months here in Wilmington. It is easy to forget the struggle so many are still facing when our own lives return to normal.

For those who call the Bahamas home, however, getting back to normal is nowhere to be seen.

Last year when Hurricane Dorian came through Wilmington, the region came out largely unscathed. That wasn’t the case in the Bahamas, where Dorian was the most powerful hurricane ever recorded to strike the Caribbean country.

Today, many families are still recovering from its effects.

Because of this and the ongoing need, The Caribbean Socialites of South Eastern North Carolina, led by DEX BROWN, hosts the Heart Bahamas Gala on Saturday, February 15 at Events! On Front in downtown Wilmington.

The event will benefit the Cape Fear Red Cross and the Bahamas Red Cross.

“The Caribbean Socialites of South Eastern North Carolina is a social, cultural, heritage-based organization that promotes diversity and unity among the Caribbean countries,” says Brown. “We are also a nonprofit that helps raise funding for Caribbean countries during these times of adversity from acts of God and various natural disasters.

“We’ve served the Southeastern North Carolina region for several years with more than fifty members. During this Heart Bahamas Gala fundraiser, we’re aiming to raise $10,000 or more in monetary donations,” she adds.

The gala will be a red-and-white formal event, and admission includes two drinks, appetizers, and a live band. Many sponsors are on board, and their dedication is essential to the success of the event, she says.

In addition to supporting the Red Cross, the Heart Bahamas Gala will help one particular family in need: the Pennermans.

The Pennermans are Hurricane Dorian survivors from Marsh Harbour, Abaco, an island in the Bahamas.

“They are a very warm and loving family,” Brown says. “They are very courageous and resilient trying to pick up the pieces of what the storm left behind.”

While it is easy to move on with life once the hurricane passes by, for those in harder-hit areas, the realities are the amount of work still to do.

“The Bahamas is still in dire need of aid and supplies,” Brown says. “They need building materials to rebuild. They are also running low on basic food and water necessities. Recovery for Freeport and Abaco is going to take years. We decided to support a gala because we know Wilmington natives love to dress up and have fun. And, they are very generous with what they do have.

“Because Wilmington knows all too well the devastating impact storms can have on the community through Matthew and Florence, we know they are willing to support the Bahamian people and get them back on the road to recovery,” she adds.

At the event, the Caribbean Socialites group will also share information on hurricane preparedness.

“Our number one goal is to save lives. We want to stress the importance of being prepared and self-reliant,” Brown says. “Do not depend on any government to take care of you during times of natural disasters. Take measures into your own hands. Have food, water, and first aid stored away.”

At the event, the Pennerman family will share their experience of how they survived the storm and how they have lost many neighbors as a result of this storm, she says.

“Coming to the United States with just the clothes on their backs, with no family support, speaks volumes about who they are and what they are capable of,” she says. “They just wanted to do what was best for their four-year-old.”

The Pennerman family has a GoFundMe page for those who wish to help.

The event begins at 6:30 pm, and tickets are $65 per person or $120 per couple. Eighty percent of the proceeds will be donated to the local Cape Fear Red Cross and the Bahamas Red Cross.

For more information on the Heart Bahamas Gala, visit its website.

To view more of photographer Michael Cline Spencer’s work, go to

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Categories: Culture