Giving Hunger the Blues
Giving Hunger the Blues
April 16, 2009
By Steve Echeverria Jr.
By now, Gwen â€œQueenieâ€ Fogt knows the routine.
Each spring, the owner of Fogtâ€™s Music Inc., her employees and friends gear up for Giving Hunger the Blues, the annual charity concert in Sarasotaâ€™s Hillview neighborhood that raises money for the areaâ€™s underserved.
Along with donating the shopâ€™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.
â€œWe really help out in two ways,â€ she said, with a laugh.
And this year, with an economic crisis leaving millions unemployed, the need is even greater.
â€œThere are far more people in need now more than ever, and so many are out of work,â€ Fogt said. â€œSo I think itâ€™s very important for all of us to take care of our fellow humans in this community.
â€œWe all have to stick together.â€
Raising awareness â€” and some cash â€” 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 childrenâ€™s activities, the daylong event features two stages with more than a dozen acts, including former â€œAmerican Idolâ€ 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.
â€œThe need in some of our food pantries has gone up 100 percent since last summer,â€ said Dunn, whose organization distributes food to more than 160 agencies in Sarasota and DeSoto counties.
â€œWhat a lot of people donâ€™t realize is that itâ€™s very difficult for hungry families during the summer,â€ he said. â€œHunger has no season.â€
Despite the ever-mounting community needs, event co-chair Caroline Sansone said organizers arenâ€™t wavering on the eventâ€™s mission.
â€œItâ€™s a lot of hard work, there are a lot of volunteers and a lot of people understanding what itâ€™s all about,â€ she said. â€œThereâ€™s more of a workload for everybody, but weâ€™re very dedicated to the cause â€” this is our cause.â€
That dedication shows. Since the eventâ€™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.
â€œItâ€™s very hard because all the costs have gone up,â€ she said. â€œAny event you want to put on now is going to cost you more.â€
With entertainment being one of the first expenses slashed in these lean times, Sansone said keeping the admission price low should attract families.
â€œPeople need to go out because things are so depressing,â€ she said.
Dunn said agreed.
â€œEverybody knows somebody who has been affected by this recession, and itâ€™s a very difficult time,â€ he said.
â€œWhen moneyâ€™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.