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Show keeps spotlight on hurricane relief needs

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The Avett Brothers hosts a benefit concert at Minges Coliseum at East Carolina University to raise money for hurricane victims and communities affected.


The Daily Reflector

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

An large and enthusiastic crowd at Minges Coliseum on Tuesday helped raise thousands and keep the community focused on helping their neighbors during the Concert for Hurricane Florence Relief, headlined by local and national fan favorites The Avett Brothers.

The Avetts along with fellow musicians from Future Islands and Valient Thorr donated their time for the performance and their energy to help organize the event, and the NFL’s Carolina Panthers donated $25,000 for the cause, highlighted by a check presentation before the headliners took the stage.

Five charities that provide relief to areas hard-hit by Florence will receive the Panthers’ donation and all proceeds from the ticket sales and other fundraising efforts, including a preconcert picnic featuring barbecue sammy sandwiches with Sam Jones of Sam Jones Barbecue and Skylight Inn, Vivian Howard of the Chef and the Farmer and Avett’s cellist and foodie Joe Kwon. The fundraising goal was $250,000.

"We planned this in about two weeks and put it together," Kwon said during the picnic. "After Florence hit us, we were trying to think of ways we could help out because eastern North Carolina has always been very close to home. It's also an area that seems to get hit over and over again. It was something that was weighing heavy on us and we know we had to do something.”

The Avetts are a grammy winning Concord-based act with connections to ECU and eastern North Carolina. Scott Avett is an ECU alum and the band played venues in the region during its early days. Valient Thorr and Future Islands also have close ties to the Greenville area.

The show was not quite a sellout, but the crowd filled the arena with enthusiasm and nearly filled the seats to the rafters.

"The Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina was really thrilled to hear from the Avett Brothers and to be one of five beneficiaries of the concert," George Young, the food bank’s director, said after the picnic event. 

Young thanked organizers for pulling the show together, including the musician’s who donated their time and leaders with the City of Greenville, East Carolina University, Uptown Greenville and Inner Banks Media, and identifying charities that have made an impact on relief efforts.

"The stakeholders all got together and said we need to do something for hurricane relief. We're really proud to be one of the nonprofits to be selected by the band themselves. They did some research and initially they agreed to do a concert for hurricane relief, but they didn't know where they were going to spend the money and share their proceeds," Young said.

The funding is crucial because hurricane survivors will need assistance for months to come, Young said. “The food bank is going to be in this for the long haul, and we have already provided up to 5.5 million meals. We've also provided millions of pounds of food and cleaning supplies and our 10 county service area," Young said.

Other charities identified by The Avett Brothers and their partners included The New Bern Relief Fund, RISE, Onslow Community Outreach and the Rural Advancement Foundation International. The East Carolina University Foundation will manage the disbursement of funds.

Organizers said that each of the organization has worked tirelessly in the aftermath of Florence to assist people left in need. 

The New Bern Relief Fund, co-created by Buddy Bengel and the Swiss Bear Downtown Development Corporation, was established after tidal surge and heavy rains from the storm caused flooding and destruction in much of the city’s core. 

RISE is a nonprofit established in Jones County to Recover, Improve, Support and Empower in the wake of disaster, organizers said. Jones County faced crippling damage to homes, schools, churches, and businesses. Focusing on long-term recovery, RISE will continue to organize and coordinate resources from among public, private, interfaith and volunteer agencies to help their residents move forward.

Onslow Community Outreach, based in Jacksonville, is a “helping hands” nonprofit for low-income and vulnerable populations. A donations center was established in the wake of Florence to receive and distribute essential goods to approximately 2,000 families and individuals, along with providing nutritious meals to families who had lost power.

RAFI focuses its efforts on farmers. Because of The Avett Brothers’ knowledge of farming and their support of family farmers at Farm Aid 2014, the band wanted to ensure that farmers impacted by Florence received the aid they needed, organizers said.

"This is just the awesome power of community,” Young said. “This is really a premier example of a community coming together to serve those in need. And we have thousands and thousands of families that are struggling today that really need our assistance." 

Howard, whose Kinston restaurant is the centerpiece for a nationally broadcast public television favorite, A Chef’s Life, said that she was pleased to be able to help people in her own backyard.

"I do a lot of fundraising and traveling and its rare that we get asked to do anything that benefits eastern North Carolina. It's also nice to do an event and not have to leave town," Howard said.

"It may not have appeared to have affected you or people you know because you didn't have any damage, but as members of this greater coastal community, we're all affected. It does represent everybody in Eastern North Carolina," she said.

Jones, the renown pitmaster who doubles as the fire chief in his home town of Ayden, has taken his cooker on the road to help feed thousands of relief workers and people affected by Florence. He said it’s important to finish the job.

"So often times, when the tide recedes, so does the help. One storm can change a whole generation," Jones said.

"In our community bringing us all together is easy. We all have the same heart. It's big and kind and it's genuine. Everybody has the ability to do something. It doesn't matter if you have a lot of money or anything, you can go to an elderly person's house and pick limbs up out of their yard. Everybody has the ability to do something and everybody should do something."

Tyler Stocks, Bobby Burns and Scott Davis contributed to this report.