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Using her voice for good
Sexual Assault Center raises funds with help of 16-year-old songstress
W Elizabeth Lewy
Elizabeth Lewy, 16-year-old niece of Statesboro's Molly Sisson, entertains folks at the Whitaker Black Box Theater during a fundraiser for the Statesboro Regional Sexual Assault Center held on Saturday. - photo by JULIE LAVENDER/Special

With the rich voice of someone talented way beyond her years, 16-year-old Elizabeth Lewy dazzled the audience with a little jazz, a dose of romance, a couple of sentimental tunes and a great deal of energy Saturday when the Statesboro Regional Sexual Assault Center hosted an event at the Whitaker Black Box Theater to raise funds for a new location for the non-profit organization. The building used for the center's office was sold recently.

The center provides direct help to victims of sexual assault of all ages on a 24/7 basis in Statesboro and Bulloch, Jenkins and Screven counties, as well as making services available to six surrounding counties.

Last year, the center completed more than 50 exams on victims ages 13 and older, and officials expect to exceed that number this year.

Saturday's fundraiser began with a social time and hors d'oeuvres in the Walnut Room of Gee Da's Table downtown. It quickly moved across the street to the theater for a stirring vocal performance by Lewy, accompanied on the piano by Statesboro's own Dr. Michael Braz.

Lewy began with a perky tune entitled "Sing Happy," and that's exactly what she did. Her face glowed with joy, and the audience was all smiles. Her exuberance for the mission of the evening was evident, and she spoke of it before the show.

"I've been singing since I could speak," she said, "and I've always been obsessed with expressing myself through music, especially for something as important as this.

"I want my voice to bring light to the cause (of helping the center find a new home) and help it in any way I can. My biggest hope is that I can empower through my voice; I want to contribute with my voice.

"I've never felt as passionate about a project as I have this one," she continued. "Being here and hearing all that the SRSAC does, it's beyond humbling to be a part of it."

New Orleans resident Lewy is the niece of the center's vice president and treasurer, Molly Sisson. When Sisson first spoke to Lewy about the possibility of the fundraiser, Lewy said she was completely on board and began making plans for a trip to Statesboro.

Appropriately, she mesmerized the audience next with a rendition of "Georgia On My Mind" and chuckled after the last note, adding, "I know it was cheesy, but I had to do it."

Lewy turned it down a bit for some sentimental tunes, like "I Can't Help Falling in Love with You," and onlookers swayed rhythmically, falling for the singer, the pianist and the heart of the mission before the night was over.

Sisson is passionate about the center, too, and has been on the board since 2006.

"Our current building has been bought out," she said, "and we know we need to find a new facility at some point. Ultimately, what would be best is a medical facility that is no longer being used so that we could have access to examination rooms, a meeting room and a place for forensic interviews."

Some of the services the center provides include community education concerning sexual assault and its prevention and advocacy for sexual assault victims through direct services including medical evaluation/evidence collection utilizing certified forensic nurse examiners in conjunction with law enforcement and the Victim Services Unit of the district attorney's office and related liaison relationships including medical, legal, social services and law enforcement.

Sisson hopes the musical fundraiser, combining the talents of her niece and Braz, spotlighted the need for ongoing fundraising.

The classically trained Lewy is in her fifth year of musical theater study at the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts. She recently performed a solo piece with the Louisiana Philharmonic, has performed in more than 14 theater productions and spent this past summer at the renowned American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York City.

Braz is well known locally for his support of worthy causes and is a nationally and internationally known music educator, composer and clinician. A recipient of an American Composers Forum/Rockefeller Brothers Fund Faith Partners grant, he has more than 20 published works in print. Professor emeritus of music at Georgia Southern University and a 24-year faculty member, Braz has received numerous local awards and recognition, including being named the third - and first living - Legend in the Arts by the Averitt Center and Humanitarian of the Year by the Statesboro Herald.

Braz was equally zealous about the event.

"It was a real pleasure collaborating with Elizabeth on such a worthwhile project," he said. "I was also excited to see (the center) using music as a way of supporting - and calling attention to - the very important work they do in Statesboro and the surrounding communities."

To contribute to the ongoing fundraising for a new location, send donations to SRSAC, 18 N. College St., Statesboro, GA 30458. For more information, call (912) 489-6060.

Sponsors for the event included Dabbs, Hickman, Hill & Cannon, LLP; Franklin Chevrolet; Sea Island Bank/Synovus; Gee Da's Table; The Florist; and Lewis Color Inc.



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