By Robert Oakes, Berkshire Center Academic Tutor
The College Internship Program (CIP) was at the heart of a major charitable event this month thanks to the efforts of Health and Wellness Coordinator Justin Green and the participation of several CIP Berkshire staff, students and parents.
The event, which took place at Chocolate Springs Café in Lenox on April 18, was a benefit concert and silent auction intended to raise money for Hopital Sacre Coeur, a major provider of desperately needed medical care in earthquake-ravaged Haiti. Quite a few students turned out for the event, along with some parents and several staff members.
Said Justin, “It was a grand showing of Berkshire Center support. The students seemed to enjoy it,” and they seemed especially excited to have had a chance to see CIP staff members Kate Smith and Robert Oakes, along with Justin, step out of their usual roles at the center to perform live music during the afternoon.
There were a number of other musical acts that day, including HuDost, Mieka Pauley, Mark Kelso, Vikki True, Henry Horning and Justin’s brother Steven Green.
It was Justin and Steven who initially dreamed up the idea to throw a benefit concert.
“I was talking to Steven, trying to convince him to come up here, so we could play music together,” Justin recalled. “Then we thought, ‘maybe we can do this as a benefit.’ Our vision during that conversation was to ask for a five-dollar donation, play some music and maybe raise two hundred dollars.”
But it wasn’t long before a little bit of Berkshire serendipity brought Justin together with Arti Ross Kelso, founder of Muddy Angel Healing Arts in Richmond, who had visited Haiti a number of times and was involved in CRUDEM, the fundraising wing of Hopital Sacre Coeur.
“I mentioned the benefit to Arti,” said Justin, “and she expressed the sentiment that many other people soon expressed, which was, ‘I want to do something for Haiti but haven’t had time to set something up in a big way.’ So we decided to combine forces and organize a small benefit.”
The project grew from there. A number of local musicians were the first to express interest in the benefit, followed by many Berkshire businesses.
“Many people were saying the same thing,” said Justin, “They wanted to do something for Haiti but had not yet found an opportunity to and so they asked us, ‘How can I contribute.’”
In all, about 50 items were donated by local business for the silent auction, including healing arts therapy sessions and gift certificates to restaurants. In fact, so many items were being offered right up to the day of the event that Justin and Arti were forced to set a limit so that there would be time to include them all in the auction.
“We were overwhelmed by the generosity,” said Justin. “On the day of the event, people were coming in, the music was playing. It was amazing how the momentum built as the day went on. Lots of people spent money. It was a very loving crowd, people from all different parts of the Berkshire community who came out to support a good cause.”
Joshua Needleman, owner of Chocolate Springs Café, was very supportive of the event, even as it began to grow from its very humble origins to the much larger event it soon became.
“He kept growing with it and making accommodations,” said Justin. “By the end, he let us take over for the whole day, move furniture and so on. He even donated some of his own proceeds from the day.”
After the final song was sung and the last item was auctioned off, Justin and Arti counted up all of the money that was donated throughout the afternoon and were excited to find that the total far exceeded their expectations. While they initially counted on bringing in around $2,100, the final tally approached $3,500.
Justin said his favorite part is that he knows that all of the money raised will go directly to the hospital, instead of being diluted into some larger charitable organization. Arti plans to travel down to Haiti in a few weeks to hand-deliver the check.
Even though media attention has dwindled and the eyes of the world are beginning to turn away from the Haitian people, their struggles continue And Hopital Sacre Coeur remains one of the most important and hardest hit medical facilities in the country. More than ever, they need help.
Said Justin, “It felt really good to learn more about the hospital and to be able to present this to local businesses and the community and say, ‘Hey, everything you donate is going to this really good cause.’”
To learn more about CRUDEM and Hopital Sacre Coeur, visit www.crudem.org.
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