Mission with makeup: Retiree gets to business raising money for Heroes on Horseback

Special to The Bluffton PacketOctober 24, 2012 

Karen Norwood knew what she was up against.

After all, who among her friends, along with area businesses, aren't routinely asked to give money for worthy nonprofit organizations? The savvy businesswoman wasn't about to go there.

"People are asked to give so much to so many organizations," Norwood said. "You just can't keep going to the same wells again and again and again. How many times can you ask people to give money? So, I decided to think outside the box."

Through a little creative give-and-take marketing, Norwood plans to raise $10,000 for Heroes on Horseback. The organization is one of about 140 nonprofits in Beaufort County, according to Bob Lee, executive director.

Norwood's goal is to hit her mark by June by selling the familiar line of Mary Kay Cosmetics and giving her profits to the nonprofit. Admittedly, selling makeup and moisturizers is an interesting choice for someone who spent a lifetime working for international finance companies selling sophisticated investment management products. But "the stuff works," stated Norwood, an athletic, low-maintenance kind of gal.

"People are very supportive of me. If I said I was selling Mary Kay because I want to go to South America next year, they're going to say, 'So do I.' That's not what it's about for me."

Norwood, a resident of Callawassie Island, was introduced to Heroes on Horseback about three years ago. The organization's concept interested her because of the athletic aspect and her instant connection with the executive director.

Heroes on Horseback provides equine assisted activities for Beaufort County students and adults with physical, mental or emotional disabilities. Last year, 240 children (also from Jasper County and Savannah) and 40 adults took advantage of the program.

The stable is at MindStream on 11 Grassey Lane in Bluffton. Heroes on Horseback is part of an international organization, PATH (Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International.). The balance of the funding comes from private donors and local grants.

"I know Karen, she has the passion, the ability, the drive to do it," Lee said about Norwood's ambitious gesture. "I think she thought some people may think it's a crazy idea."

Norwood and her husband, Bob, moved to Callawassie Island from San Francisco in 1999. It was the familiar story of a couple visiting the area on a golf vacation, falling in love with the place, and eventually relocating. But neither sat still for the first five years. Norwood's job came with constant travel while her husband launched a home health care business. After retiring in 2004, Norwood put her energies into the Callawassie Island Members' Club board, where she served as president for two years.

"I like helping people understand things," Norwood said. "I really like it when you see the 'Oh!' on people's faces.

In order to start her new venture, Norwood invested $4,000 in inventory. Although she's only been at it since July, she's made back most of her deficit. If Norwood surpasses her target, other money will go toward the Beaufort County United Way early childhood reading program.

In the meantime, Norwood said she's not about to sit back after she reaches her goal.

"I keep thinking I'm going to be a book club person and play golf and tennis, but it never works," she said.

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