Living Ind

A Helping Hand

by Leslie Turk

P.J. Naomi has outdone himself with this year’s design for a one-of-a-kind Palates & Paté auction item.

photo by Terri Fensel

Believing in the potential impact Acadiana Outreach could have on our community’s poor and homeless populations for years to come, P.J. Naomi made a 10-year, $100,000 commitment to support the work of the nonprofit organization. That was eight years ago, and each year since then Naomi’s family-run jewelry store, Paul’s, has written a $5,000 check to Acadiana Outreach’s Palates & Paté fund-raiser and worked in collaboration with a local artist to design and produce a one-of-a-kind fine jewelry piece that’s gone for $8,000 to $12,000 at the annual event’s live auction. The final piece has always been the jewelry designer’s interpretation of that artist’s work. But this year, encouraged by Acadiana Outreach CEO Valerie Keller to showcase his own creative talents, Naomi went solo, crafting a stunning cuff bangle bracelet that may very well top the bidding of years past.

Inspired by the work of two jewelry designers whose lines Paul’s carries, Chad Allison and JudeFrances, and hoping to capture the local flavor of Louisiana, Naomi started with heavy, 18 karat flat plate stock from Stuller Inc. and shaped it, ultimately creating a softly brushed Florentine gold cuff. He then incorporated more than 3.2 carats of diamonds — including three fleurs de lis with about 75 pave set diamonds.

Not considering the value inherent in a one-of-a-kind bracelet like this, Naomi estimates the retail value at $10,000 to $11,000.

Acadiana Outreach depends on the success of P&P and the generosity of donors like the Naomi family for a third of its $3.7 million operating budget (a figure that includes in-kind contributions). This year’s event is especially critical, as the center is seeing more and more people in need of its services. “Think of a single mother with four children making minimum wage and the cost of food, the cost of gasoline has gone up,” says P&P Manager Naomi Celestin. “People like that family are struggling and are coming to us in larger numbers. That’s why Palates is so important.”

Additionally, Acadiana Outreach is within a couple of months of opening a new Recovery Action Center on its Buchanan Street campus, where qualified case managers will immediately assess the needs of the homeless and impoverished and help them get back on their feet.

“Lafayette and Acadiana has always been a giving community, and if you look at [us] in general, we have fared so well in this economic downturn,” P.J. Naomi says, “which is all the more reason why we need to raise awareness for Acadiana Outreach and all of the services it offers. They’ll take people, train them, help them find a job, give them the necessary tools to brush themselves off and get a fresh start.”
The 2008 Palates & Paté, a fund-raiser for Acadiana Outreach Center, is Thursday, Nov. 20, at the Cajundome Convention Center. Ali Landry will emcee the event, which pairs distinguished regional artists with premier area chefs to create unique pieces of art and signature dishes that reflect the artwork. IberiaBank is the presenting sponsor, and additional sponsorships are still available. Call Naomi Celestin at (337) 237-7618, Ext. 226._