"Last year, 67 million Americans volunteered to help other people in America," said former President Jimmy Carter during a joint appearance by five ex-presidents at a Oct. 21 benefit concert in Texas to raise money for hurricane relief efforts.
"That came to eight billion hours of work worth a hundred and eighty-four billion dollars," Carter said, standing alongside Barack Obama, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton and George H.W. Bush at "Deep From the Heart: The One America Appeal" at Reed Arena at Texas A&M University in College Station.
Carter's statement in the video message at cnn.com keenly illustrated how grass roots assistance, efforts that start at home with a handful of individuals, can grow into greater effects.
Early on Sept. 20, Hurricane Maria — a Category 4 hurricane with winds up to 150 mph — made direct landfall on Puerto Rico, destroying power, water and food supplies. A month later, little has been restored and remote village remain completely cut off.
A handful of Rogue Valley musicians — just as they did after disasters in Haiti, Japan and Nepal — teamed up to plan a concert to raise awareness and money to assist.
"After searching countless websites and nonprofit organizations,” says folk artist Alice DiMicele, “we found an opportunity to make a big difference without just throwing money into the pockets of a big organization with a CEO who has a six-figure salary.”
The opportunity was no further than right here in the Rogue Valley.
The People for Puerto Rico Benefit Concert will be held from 5 to 9 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 5, at the Historic Ashland Armory, 208 Oak St. It will feature the Alice DiMicele Band with Vince Herman of Leftover Salmon, rock bands L.E.F.T. and The Rogue Suspects, and bluegrass band 33 String Drive — along with a lineup of Rogue Valley talent featuring duo Inger Jorgensen and Paul Turnipseed, Phoenix Sigalove, Diane Patterson, duo B Wishes and Jack Hopfinger, Frankie Hernandez, Bishop Mayfield, Shybo Torres and Marc Gostnell.
Admission starts with donations of $20. The event is open to all ages, and there will be traditional Puerto Rican food and a designated area with adult beverages. Look for raffles for a guitar, music, massage certificates and more. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for information.
DiMicele’s brother-in-law, Randy Ortiz of Atlanta, will visit Puerto Rico in November with a group of volunteers from Caritas Internationalis, a nonprofit committed to encouraging everyone to respond to humanitarian disasters, to promote integral human development and to advocate on the causes of poverty and violence, according to its mission statement.
"They'll be ready to do whatever needs to be done," DiMicele says. "When we did the Haiti benefit years ago, we sent a dome from Ashland-based company Pacific Domes to be used as a birthing center. It's now a school. The domes provide instant, solid shelters, schools and community centers."
Asha Deliverance at Pacific Domes and Eric Hansen at True South Solar will sell their products at cost, and Ortiz and his team will deliver them to Puerto Rico, along with other building supplies, food, water, and medical supplies.
DiMicele's colleagues and friends didn't hesitate to answer the call for help.
"I called Vince Herman, who recently moved to Ashland, and asked him to help," she says. "His answer was a resounding 'Yes!' So he will headline the event and sit in with my band. Bluegrass band 33 String Drive also will sit in."
"Our friends in Puerto Rico and the American Virgin Islands have only begun to dig their way out of what could be still a calamitous disaster," Bill Clinton said during the One America Appeal charity effort. "But there can be a new beginning if we just do what we ought to do and prove that the heart of America, without regard to race, religion or political party, is greater than our problems."
"All of us on this stage tonight could not be prouder of the response of America," Obama added. "When they see strangers in need, they step up."
As of Oct. 22, the One America Appeal charity effort had raised nearly $33 million in tax-deductible, private funds from more than 80,000 donors, according to organizers. The concert featured rock and country musicians Lyle Lovett, Robert Earl Keen, Sam Moore and Yolanda Adams. Country music singer Lee Greenwood was emcee for the event.