Giving Hunger the Blues

Giving Hunger the Blues
April 16, 2009
By Steve Echeverria Jr.

By now, Gwen “Queenie” Fogt knows the routine.

Each spring, the owner of Fogt’s Music Inc., her employees and friends gear up for Giving Hunger the Blues, the annual charity concert in Sarasota’s Hillview neighborhood that raises money for the area’s underserved.

Along with donating the shop’s equipment, Fogt also performs on stage at the fundraiser with the Fogt All-Stars, a blues and R&B band featuring up to 13 musicians.

“We really help out in two ways,” she said, with a laugh.

And this year, with an economic crisis leaving millions unemployed, the need is even greater.

“There are far more people in need now more than ever, and so many are out of work,” Fogt said. “So I think it’s very important for all of us to take care of our fellow humans in this community.

“We all have to stick together.”

Raising awareness — and some cash — for area children while providing affordable family-friendly entertainment are the staples of Giving Hunger the Blues, which begins at noon Sunday.

Along with food vendors, martial arts and dance demonstrations, and children’s activities, the daylong event features two stages with more than a dozen acts, including former “American Idol” finalist Syesha Mercado, The Boneshakers, Center for Education Jazz Band and others.

Admission is $5 for adults and free for children.

Proceeds will benefit the All Faiths Food Bank and PAL Sailor Circus. And that pleases Dan Dunn, executive director of All Faiths Food Bank.

“The need in some of our food pantries has gone up 100 percent since last summer,” said Dunn, whose organization distributes food to more than 160 agencies in Sarasota and DeSoto counties.

“What a lot of people don’t realize is that it’s very difficult for hungry families during the summer,” he said. “Hunger has no season.”

Despite the ever-mounting community needs, event co-chair Caroline Sansone said organizers aren’t wavering on the event’s mission.

“It’s a lot of hard work, there are a lot of volunteers and a lot of people understanding what it’s all about,” she said. “There’s more of a workload for everybody, but we’re very dedicated to the cause — this is our cause.”

That dedication shows. Since the event’s inception in 1996, Giving Hunger the Blues has raised more than $600,000 for local charities.

Still, the slumping economy has also affected the event in other ways, Sansone said.

“It’s very hard because all the costs have gone up,” she said. “Any event you want to put on now is going to cost you more.”

With entertainment being one of the first expenses slashed in these lean times, Sansone said keeping the admission price low should attract families.

“People need to go out because things are so depressing,” she said.

Dunn said agreed.

“Everybody knows somebody who has been affected by this recession, and it’s a very difficult time,” he said.

“When money’s tight and families are looking to do something and not just sit about the house, this event is affordable and has a family atmosphere.

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