Over the years, as she made connections through her business, Sanders knew she had the ability to use her reputation, as well as the building that houses her gallery, to help people. “The gallery allowed me to network,” says Carmen. Through her contacts, she was invited to become a member of the board for the Calvert Marine Museum and help with the museum’s concert series, one of the its major fundraisers. Along with another board member who shared Sanders’ love of music, she helped organize the events to make each concert a success. “We did whatever they needed,” Carmen recalls, adding, “We helped set up the receptions and even entertained the artists who were in town to perform by borrowing someone’s boat and taking them out sailing from time to time.”
With the encouragement of her friend and former boss at Appeal Elementary, Guffrie Smith, Carmen then went on to become a member of the board for Asbury Solomons Island, a retirement and assisted care community. While on the board, Carmen used her gallery to host events benefitting the Asbury Memory Garden, a project to raise money and awareness for Alzheimer’s disease. “I’ve never had funds, as in dollars, to give,” Carmen says. “That has been my biggest struggle as a business owner, so I try to give my time and energy.”
During her time in Southern Maryland, Carmen has given plenty of both. More than 25 years ago, she and Ellen Zahniser, another Solomons business owner, established the annual Solomons Christmas Walk. The event has grown with each passing year and, according to Sanders, “has taken on a life of its own.” It draws thousands of visitors to the island each December.
Carmen is also one of the founding members, and a past president, of the Solomons Business Association (SBA). One relatively new event Carmen is intimately involved with, through the SBA and the College of Southern Maryland (CSM), is Solomons Paint the Town, held each year in May. This year the art show was combined with A Taste of Solomons to create the new Solomons Plein Air Street Faire, including wonderful food and lots of fun family activities. The plein air show gives artists from all over the country the opportunity to come and paint the sights of Solomons, while visitors can watch a painting develop from first brushstroke to finished piece. The money raised by the event is split between the SBA and CSM to fund the annual Solomons Fourth of July fireworks display and scholarships to attend CSM, respectively. Once again, Sanders hosted several events at her gallery to help raise money for these worthy causes.
As a pet lover, Sanders has always had a fondness for animals. But it was when, years ago, someone brought a sick kitten to a PTA meeting trying to find it a home that she really developed a love and empathy for all things feline. “I had that cat for 17 years, and I’ve never looked back,” says Sanders. Because of her affinity for animals, she hosts pet adoptions at the gallery during the Solomons Fourth of July festivities and Christmas Walk. Sanders enjoys working closely with one of her favorite organizations: PAWS, a private nonprofit humane society and spay and neuter clinic in Calvert County. “Animals need advocates too,” she says. By hosting adoption events at the gallery, she has helped countless pets find loving homes, including her own adopted cat Bella.
Beyond selling beautiful art, Sanders and her gallery have come to represent a place of love and sharing, with people often stopping by to inquire about both art and animals. Running a small business is never an easy feat, but by giving back to her community, Sanders has gained much more than wealth; she has shown others the true meaning of the art of giving. ✦
Carmen's Gallery is located at 14550 Solomons Island Rd. in Solomons. Stop by Thursday through Saturday from 11 a.m.-5 p.m. or Sunday from 11 a.m.-3 p.m, or visit the website at www.carmensgallery.com. To learn more about the organizations Sanders in involved with, go to www.calvertmarinemuseum.com, www.asburysolomons.org, www.solomonsmaryland.com and www.facebook.com/pawspet.