Home is Where the Heart is!!

Michelle Micalizzi, Artist
All Rights Reserved

I met Dawn Marie Rapaporta few months ago when both of us had the privilege of joining our BNI Paragon chapter.  Dawn Marie and her husband are the founders of Homeless Engagement Lift Partnership (HELP), which lives a mission that is truly inspiring.

With the Love of a Servant’s Heart, Our Mission is to Help Restore Dignity and Hope to those in our Homeless Community.  Provide Immediate Aid and Comfort. Advance Education and Knowledge for Those Who have Found Themselves in some Form of Homelessness.  Promote Awareness and Purpose in the Community.

Homelessness…. it is a word that none of us likes to think about.  Homelessness statistics are staggering. On any given night in the United States of America; 610,000 people are without a home. Of that number, 57,849 people are veterans.  Maricopa County represents 29,000 of those folks and of that number, 40% are families.  As dire as those figures are, what is even more mind-boggling are the causes of homelessness.  Take a look at the pie chart below and contemplate the math. 

  • 50% of the those who find themselves without a roof over their head are working people who had a bad break, or who are not making enough money to take care of monthly bills. 
  • 40% are in a bad situation due to a life or health situation.  
  • Only 9% find themselves on the street corner of our great city because they are active alcoholics and drug addicts.  

As I consider the breakdown of those statistics, it alters how I think about the folks I see on the street. The reality is that most of us are only one bad break away from being homeless. Frighteningly, that is just the hard truth of the matter.

I thought I knew what I would write about when I offered to create a piece for the Art of Business Exhibition.  I should note that although this project has a very similar name to my Art of Fearlessly Doing Business project, it is not the same project. For this exhibition, Realtor Amy Willaby asked business owners to create their own piece so that it could be auctioned off this year to benefit HELP.  

Initially, I thought my blog would be more about stats, and perhaps I would include some stories from when I worked at the Salvation Army Women’s Shelter as the night Social Worker, and then as the Director of Recreation for the Highbridge Woodycrest Residence for people with AIDS in the 90’s. Both experiences left a lasting impression on me about the reality of homelessness. However, Dawn Marie changed my mind about my focus for this blog when I recently asked on my Facebook Live painting session if anyone had been homeless.  

Personally, I had a brief homeless period between my move from Vermont to Arizona. I will never, EVER forget sleeping in my car. I briefly joined the 10% who found themselves homeless due to “a change in family status”.  It was an experience that left a permanent appreciation for a stable home and a healthy fear of unforeseen circumstances.  Dawn Marie commented to my Facebook Live question with, “homeless as a child.”  As I read her reply out loud, a lump formed in my throat and tears immediately filled my eyes. Yes, I had to stop myself from sobbing on Facebook Live.  So much for my reputation for being a strong tough woman! 

We have all had horrible and difficult things happen to us; some of us more so than others. What impresses me about Dawn Marie is that she has taken her experience as a homeless child and turned it into an opportunity to be a servant leader of the extra special variety.  Each of the snack packs that Dawn Marie gives the children who receive HELP’s care are given a hand-written message on their lunch packs.  I imagine these are the kind of messages that Dawn Marie’s child-self appreciates.  

Ultimately, we have a choice in this life. We can allow the bad things that happened to us be our undoing and keep us mentally not well for a lifetime. We can use our history as an excuse for all sorts of limiting, bad and hurtful behavior, OR we can make a choice to take the things that caused us harm and repurpose them into something meant to heal ourselves and others. We can choose joy, choose love, and act accordingly as servant leaders, OR we can choose fear, to hate, and shut our hearts down so deeply that we remain emotionally ill for a lifetime and never be part of the solution for ourselves, and least of all for others.  Acknowledging the choice changes everything. Are we going to be a light in the world or are we going to set up camp in the darkness? 

I have found that those who have experienced great loss are the only ones who can really direct those that are there now.  It is hard to take advice or accept help from someone who has never been there.  Dawn Marie is in a unique position to be the example of what it looks like to make the empowered choice.  I am super proud of her and her husband for being the example in action of the change they wish to see in the world.


I never ask my readers to take monetary action but this an exception.  I am asking you to take out your credit cards or log into your PayPal to support HELP in order for Dawn Marie to continue to fulfill her mission.


This painting has been turned into a special blanket with a goal of selling 500 blankets that will be donated to HELP for the homeless and 50% of the royalties from your purchase will be donated to HELP, which means you are having a positive impact on two fronts. 


There are be other items for sale in which 50% of the royalties will be donated to HELP.  Items can also be mailed to HELP, which will be donated to the homeless, namely socks, t-shirts, hoodies, and hats.  Items are being added all the time to this cart. This store is being added to all the time!  Come back often!



The painting will be up for auction on TONIGHT at 5:30PM – 8:00PM at 7181 E Camelback Rd, Scottsdale, AZ 85251. If you have it in your heart to give, please join us and put a bid on the piece. This is a uniquely worthy event that you can help generate a HUGE check for Dawn Marie’s extraordinary organization.





LISTEN TO Dawn Marie’s recent interview on Relentless Talks Radio:


The foundation of this piece is roughly based upon the HELP logo. However, the hand traced reaching is a common symbol in my work symbolizing reaching for something greater, hope and community.  There are snack packs that have doors and windows drawing attention to the homeless children that HELP serves and the child Dawn Marie once was.  The heart in the hand is showing the sky where we all reside, with or without a roof alike.  

Homeless Engagement Lift Partnership


Michelle Micalizzi discusses Entrepreneurism, Health, Fitness, Art, Fashion, and Philanthropy 

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