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Painting with a Purpose helps Viva Las Chicas support cancer patients

A cheer for Viva Las Chicas and Painting with a Twist in St. Petersburg.
A cheer for Viva Las Chicas and Painting with a Twist in St. Petersburg.
Sarah Dees

Viva Las Chicas is the non-profit organization that partnered with Painting with a Twist in St. Petersburg, Florida, for their monthly Painting with a Purpose event in the Spring of 2014. People take painting classes there, bringing food and drinks to enjoy while socializing, and following along step-by-step, as a friendly artist/instructor paints a 16 x 20 canvas. Groups are able to select a painting to do from the online gallery of thousands of copyrighted Painting with a Twist images. At this event, the group painted an image called, "Paradise Calling."

Leslie Gay presents a check to Pam Tushaus, President of Viva Las Chicas.
Sarah Dees

Painting with a Purpose events are classes like the usual acrylic painting classes taught by Painting with a Twist, but half of the proceeds from the class are immediately donated to the organization involved. People participating can have fun making a painting to take home with them at the end of a two or three hour class, while donating to a good cause. Community and philanthropy have always been an integral part of the Painting with a Twist corporate philosophy. All of their franchises hold these monthly fundraisers, to help non-profit organizations that benefit their local communities.

"Paint and sip" classes are continuing to grow in popularity, as evidenced by the spread of the franchises all across America, which now number up to 150 locations. Corks N Canvas was started in 2007 by Cathy Deano and Renee Maloney in Mandeville, Louisiana.The St. Petersburg studio, owned by Marvin and Leslie Gay, is the first franchise ever established, from the groundbreaking concept of Corks N Canvas. This month, the St. Petersburg studio is celebrating their five year anniversary. The business owned by Marvin and Leslie Gay continues to grow, as they are now in the process of opening their third location. In addition to their studios in St. Petersburg and Tampa, they will soon have a studio up and running in Clearwater. Keeping the business in the family, Leslie's son Jason will be managing the new studio in Clearwater.

"The first encounter with the Viva Las Chicas was a private party for a woman who was stricken with cancer," said Leslie Gay, co-owner of Painting with a Twist. "A fundraiser for their organization seemed like a perfect fit. We were able to raise $1080 to give to the organization."

Viva Las Chicas assists individuals and families after a breast cancer diagnosis by providing services such as laundry, support, even supplying meals. Their survivors are willing to make a call to the newly diagnosed to answer questions or to just listen. Viva Las Chicas works to provide individualized support to meet each family’s needs.

"We are about raising money to help families," said Pam Tushaus, President of the Viva Las Chicas. "We try to stress that we can't help with medical bills. We give help with filling a void of emergency needs that aren't met by other organizations. We help women in active treatment."

"This is our second event at Painting with a Twist," said Tushaus. "The first event was for Nancy Donan. She wanted to do it for fun. Nancy was very creative. She loved to make jewelry, and she began to donate 100% of her jewelry sales to the Chicas. Sadly, she passed away from cancer in January. We are still selling the jewelry she made here at the merchandise table, and all of the money is being donated to the Viva Las Chicas."

Pam Tushaus, who is President of the local group, said, "I've been involved since 2004. My mother-in-law had breast cancer, and my sister-in-law got me involved with the Chicas. Since I'm a CPA, I started as Treasurer and then helped them make it a non-profit."

"The Chicas that are here today are the ones that are here for everything," she said. "There has been a core group of about six women in the Tampa Bay area. Tracy Leduc is a Board member, and she has helped a lot. Stephanie Zimmerman is Secretary."

Tom Donan was there helping to sell the jewelry Nancy made. "I'm one of the few male Chicas," he said with a grin. "I'm a Chico."

Lisa Berg is Outreach Awareness Coordinator. "I find awareness days we can go to," she said. "We show up at the St. Pete Market on Saturday mornings. We've been at Morton Plant hospital, at Greenfest and at the Rays Community Corner in July."

"We have meetings the second Monday of every month at Panera Bread at Feather Sound at 6 pm.," she said. "We are always looking for opportunities to do awareness events," she said. "People can contact me if they are interested in becoming involved."

Jane Morse-Swett has been with the Gulfcoast Oncological Foundation, one of the first groups that did a Painting with a Purpose event at the St. Petersburg location of Painting with a Twist. "Jane has been with Women with Purpose and Viva Las Chicas, and now she is running her own foundation," said Tushaus. "Women with Purpose helps with expenses during and after treatment."

Melissa Gray and Elizabeth Burbury work in organizations that help all women in need. "All different types of organizations are working toward similar causes and trying to figure out ways we can help each other," said Tushaus. "There is a network of helping in the community."

"We have partnered with the Indian Rocks Rotary Club every year for the past three years to sell raffle tickets for a chance to go to the Super Bowl. Half of the money we raise goes to the Chicas. The second year we sold the winning ticket!" she said. " We have been at outreach programs at Largo Medical Center and Morton Plant Mease Hospital. Two years in a row we have been involved in the Pedaling for Pink event. We raised $17,000 the first year. We are all volunteers in the group. Nobody gets paid. Everything is done out of our own homes, and all of the money we raise goes to patients."

"We need volunteers, people that want to take on some leadership roles. It's a lot of work," she said.

Contact Lisa Berg, Outreach Awareness Coordinator, 727-422-1663,

Viva Las Chicas on Facebook

P.O. Box 66866, St. Petersburg Beach, Florida 33736

Viva Las Chicas is a non-profit organization with section 501(c) (3) status for tax purposes, and is governed by its Board of Directors.

Painting with a Twist studios, owned by Leslie and Marvin Gay
2527 Central Ave, St. Petersburg, FL 33713, (727) 327-4488,
2821 S MacDill Ave, Tampa, FL 33629, (813) 839-2409,
1570 N McMullen Booth Rd, Unit H2, Clearwater, FL 33759,

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