Photographs by William Taufic.
Beth Hayes brings small-town heart to volunteering. Raised in Fayetteville, West Virginia—population about 1,900 then—she watched family and friends model charitable behavior. “If you got sick, neighbors brought food. And no one would ever take a limousine to the airport,” she says. “Someone would drive you.”
After moving to Westport with her husband, Jonathan, Beth got involved on a larger scale, honoring the lessons of kindness and generosity that were her legacy.
“Here we are sitting around in our warm, happy houses, and many people have nothing to eat,” she says. “And they have to sleep on mattresses on the floor in a hallway.”
She became a loyal go-to fundraising committee member. For more than twenty-five years, she’s helped conceive and carry off events that bring in money to fund vital services. Beth puts grace and gusto behind house tours, parties and fashion shows for Near & Far Aid, an all-volunteer effort that fights poverty in Fairfield County by providing food, shelter, job training and more. She’s also worked her magic for the Domestic Violence Crisis Center (DVCC) in Norwalk, doing whatever is needed to help make its annual May luncheon event a big draw, right down to helping stuff the invitations. And Beth has graciously cochaired cocktail parties to benefit the cancer center at St. Vincent’s Medical Center in Bridgeport.
“I’ve worked for ten years on projects with Beth,” says Andrew Mitchell-Namdar, vice president of marketing & creative services for Mitchells Family of Stores. (Mitchells hosts the Spring Gala for Near & Far Aid every March, with a couture fashion show, wine auction, band, cocktails and dinner.) “She has one of the biggest hearts. Cochairs change every year, but Beth is always there sharing her wisdom. She has no ego. She just quietly gets the job done.”
And she cares deeply about the causes she supports, like domestic violence. “Many women are abused, verbally or physically, and they go to the doctor and the doctor says, ‘You must leave,’ but they don’t know how. Those of us who have never been abused don’t know how to imagine it.” But the DVCC does; it runs a hotline 24/7, 365 days a year and has SafeHouses to shelter women and kids.
Beth’s son, Christopher, has also followed in his family’s philanthropic footsteps. He left business school to develop a device that allows paralyzed patients who can move their heads to use a computer. “He raised the money and started a company called Boost Technology, and a nonprofit called Give-Tech to give these devices to people who need them. They’ve provided over six hundred head units to quadriplegics,” says Beth.
For Beth, the feeling she gets from helping others is reward enough for all that she does. “Volunteering not only helps others, it helps the people who help,” she says.
Visit nearandfaraid.org and dvccct.org