Rock the Vets Fundraiser

edwin-bartlettThe Rock the Vets fundraiser started in 2008. I was asked by Steve Spurrell to help raise money to build a new VFW hall. For those of you not familiar with the Guilford VFW hall, it is basically a series of chicken coops, connected and finished to resemble a building.

It also happens to be over 50 years old.

Now, having served in the United States Marine Corps and knowing how much community service and veteran outreach that the VFW does, I was all in. But then the words of the infamous Gunny Grace came to mind. He said, “Killer, never volunteer for anything!” I suppose all Gunnery Sergeants say this, but in this case, I knew he had to be wrong. You see, it is not just about the building a new hall. It’s about bringing awareness to the cause of all our vets. It’s about showing our thanks. There will come a time, and not soon enough, when my brothers and sisters in arms can come home. There will come a time when the body bags are no longer in the news and the critically injured are no longer front and center in the daily newspapers. Again, this can’t happen soon enough. But when that time comes, as with all other wars, we will forget. If you don’t believe me, take a look at your local Memorial Day parade.

I attended my first meeting and was amazed at the progress that was made. There were commitments from tradesmen in all fields of construction to donate their labor for free to build the hall. Additionally, there were also commitments by the materials suppliers to donate all the materials at cost, or even below cost. The architects and engineers had donated their services, and the town had waived all fees for permits and inspections. Pretty damn good. But here’s the catch. We needed to find a way to just pay for the materials. All $650,000.00 worth of them.

At first, I was floored. How do we do this, I wondered. Well, we will continue to seek grants and, now that it is available, maybe some economic recovery money, as we are helping to keep businesses from failing. But what else? I decided, despite the wisdom of Gunny Grace, to organize a small concert. I figured I would tap some of the bands I know, maybe 2 or 3, to do a quick show—and BAM!, we’d have some working capitol. Well, I got the Guilford Park and Rec to give us their stage and got Bishop’s Field to rent the field for half price. We were in business.

Then reality set in. People were going to be drinking, so we needed port-a-pots. People were going to get hungry, so we needed to sell food. People might bring kids, so we had to set up something for them. People might give more money if a raffle was set up, so I had to arrange for prize donations. People were going to create garbage, so there had to be places to dump it. People needed to park, so that had to be figured out. If we left it to the people, then they were apt to park right in front of the stage, or worse, on top of some of the spectators.

All of that sounds fun so far, doesn’t it? Oh, you don’t know the half of it. It got worse (better). Suddenly, I had seven of the best bands on the shoreline donating their time. Suddenly, we had a festival. And a pretty damn good one at that. We got a $2500.00 Fender Stratocastor as a prize donation, and with the help of companies such as Royal Printing, American Carting, Country Portables, and even Walmart, we pulled it off. And it was amazing. We hired a professional sound company, and unlike other benefit shows, our transitions took on the average 10 minutes. We had an amazing day of music, a beautiful day of weather, and just a plain old fun. So I’d like to say to Gunny, that sometimes it’s a good thing to volunteer. If any of you are interested in volunteering for Rock the Vets 2010 by donating your time, goods, or services or by sponsoring the event, go to our website, rockthevets.com, and let us know. You won’t regret that you did.

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