Paul Kearney, a Bright's Grove resident and retired process operator, first met Joanne Klauke-LaBelle through his involvement as a part-time financial planner.
That was around 1996 and Klauke-LaBelle had already been running Harmony for Youth for some two years, the iconic organization helping students succeed in life, at least in part by introducing them to the wonder of music through complimentary lessons.
It wasn't long before Klauke-LaBelle began asking Kearney about what it would take to incorporate Harmony, essentially turning it formally into the charity it is today.
Two years after they met, the incorporation became a reality, and Kearney served as its first board chair.
Today, Klauke-LaBelle, who suffers from a form of kidney disease that has made it impossible for her to handle the physical demands of running the organization, has "retired."
Her friends and colleagues have stepped up, holding a series of "For the Love of Joanne" fundraisers intended to help offset expenses related to Klauke-LaBelle's medical treatments, which are not inconsiderable.
"It was something we could do for a very special lady," said Kearney, who considers Klauke-LaBelle "a very dear friend."
While funds raised are decidedly not eligible for any tax receipts (the money is for the benefit of an individual, in this case Klauke-LaBelle), that fact hasn't stopped those who care about the Harmony founder to step forward.
Notably, net proceeds from last weekend's series of "For the Love of . . . " events was expected to near or exceed $10,000, said Mike Taylor, who began volunteering at Harmony before becoming a staff member and now at the helm with the retirement of Klauke-LaBelle.
A donation of some 50 works of art from members of the Sarnia Artists Workshop, 6 + 1 art group (as well as local and international artists) certainly helped, said Taylor, although each of the three fundraising events—including bowling pledge drive, a wine tasting and wine auction, as well as the art auction, were successful in their own right.
On Sunday, 3rd Wave and Power House supplied the entertainment for another event at Jack Doyle's Irish Grille, where the silent auction occurred in another room.
Additional donations to the "Love of Joanne" fund can be made through any branch of the Southwest Regional Credit Union.
A letter going out to appeal for funds is ongoing, said Taylor, who said the weekend effort was received very positively.
"All we got were compliments," said Taylor.