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Island gallery donating portion of Haitian art sales to aid local man

By Staff | Feb 3, 2010

Valerie and Paul Roshberg of Sanibel Art & Frame stand beside a painting made by a Haitian artist, which is priced at $500. Half of the proceeds from art sales of Haitian paintings are being donated to a local man with family living in Haiti.

Following the devastating earthquake that struck the island nation of Haiti in early January, people in the United States – and especially here in Southwest Florida – have attempted to gather together aid of all sorts to assist the already poverty-devastated country.

As fellow islanders, the residents of Sanibel and Captiva have done their part, too, with various collections sponsored by multiple local agencies, clubs and organizations. The business community is doing their part as well, as a number of Haiti-born laborers have been torn between continuing their lives in America and reaching out to their friends and families back home.

Odiles Desamours, known as “Dede” to everyone who knows him, has been a fixture on the islands for more than a decade. He has worked at various restaurants on Sanibel, currently with The Great White Grill. After the earthquake struck Haiti, Dede soon learned that his wife and children were alive, however, he lost many family members due to the natural disaster.

Immediately, Dede knew that he was needed to return home and help his fellow countrymen. But without the funds to fly to Haiti, he could only hope and pray there would be a way for him to complete his mission of compassion.

That’s when John Nader, owner of The Great White Grill, stepped in.

Valerie Roshberg shows off one of the smaller Haitian paintings for sale at the gallery.

“A day or two after the disaster, Dede was on the phone, still trying to reach his family,” said Nader. “Then I thought to myself, ‘How can we help him out?’ so we started running some specials and put out a jar.”

Nader began a collection to help fund Dede’s trips – he will need to make several – to Haiti, and began telling others about Desamours’ tragic tale. That’s when Paul and Valerie Roshberg got involved.

“John mentioned to us that he was collecting money for Haiti, and we immediately knew we wanted to get involved,” said Paul.

The Roshbergs, who own and operate Sanibel Art & Frame, have been longtime supporters of Haitian artists. For many years, they have purchased paintings done by artists living in Haiti, since the tropical elements of the artwork have a strong appeal here in Southwest Florida.

“There is one artist representative that comes here and shows us art from Haiti,” said Paul. “He usually brings a roll of about 20 paintings, and we always purchase a couple of them for the gallery.

Paul Roshberg holds two panoramic landscape paintings from Haiti.

“Through the years, we’ve sold them here and there,” added Valerie. “We have many customers that like that certain style of art.”

After Nader told them Dede’s story, the Roshbergs went through their inventory and found about a dozen paintings from Haitian artists. They immediately pledged 50 percent of all proceeds from the sale of those paintings to Dede’s mission.

In the short time since they made that pledge, Sanibel Art & Frame has sold four large paintings, and delivered a check for $475 to Dede last week before he left to fly back to be with his family.

“He’ll be back in about four or five weeks,” said Valerie, who added that an additional sale raised another $250, which will be waiting for Dede upon his return. “The money will be used for his travel expenses and rent, plus food and supplies for the people of Haiti.”

Asked how it felt to present the check to Dede, and Valerie smiled brightly.

“I was speaking French with him, and I said that I hoped that the money could help him a little bit,” she recalled. “He kept blessing me and thanking us so much. He’s a great man. He doesn’t complain about anything and is always smiling and happy.”

Nader, who also presented Desamours with another $500, added that the collection has been pledged $1,500, which will be given to Dede upon his return to Sanibel. Meanwhile, the donation jar is still out at The Great White Grill, located at 2440 Palm Ridge Road.

“People are more than welcome to stop by and make a donation,” he added.

A number of paintings from Haitian artists, in various sizes priced from $75 to $500, remain at Sanibel Art & Frame. To view the artwork, visit the gallery at 630 Tarpon Bay Road. They are open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. For more information, call 395-1350.