Music festival was canceled but the beat goes on to fight homelessness

This year’s Amplify Decatur Music Festival was scheduled to feature Indigo Girls, Son Volt, Blind Boys of Alabama, The Cactus Blossoms, and Michelle Malone. Its sponsor, nonprofit organization Amplify My Community, hoped to raise thousands of dollars to help community-based nonprofits Decatur Cooperative Ministry, Family Connections-Community in Schools in Athens and Decatur-area Emergency Assistance Ministry. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the event—like many concerts and festivals this year—was canceled.

“We were floored to learn that many people declined ticket refunds, insisting that the money come instead to us and the other nonprofits,” said Marlene White of Decatur Cooperative Ministry, which as with the other recipients, addresses issues surrounding homelessness and poverty. “Their generosity really touched my heart.”

Founded in 2010, Decatur-based Amplify My Community states that its mission is “to leverage the universal love of music to fight poverty at the local level.” Since its founding, Amplify has produced more than 70 concerts and raised and donated more than $345,000 in unrestricted gifts to locally oriented anti-homelessness and poverty-focused organizations. The organization has held concerts across Georgia and in Tennessee and Virginia.

As a result of this year’s festival being a financial success in spite of being canceled, the ticket buyers, along with sponsors and individual donors, made possible gifts of $30,000 to Decatur Cooperative Ministry, $5,000 to Family Connections-Community in Schools of Athens and $1,500 to Decatur-area Emergency Assistance Ministry. With this gift, Amplify My Community has directed more than $265,000 to Decatur Cooperative Ministry.

“A lump sum of $30,000 is always a delicious gift,” White said, “but right now, during the pandemic, it’s needed more than ever.” She noted that her organization has stepped up its services to meet what she characterized as greatly increased needs over the past few months.

“Many people are struggling with homelessness right now—some for the first time. Many people are behind in their house payments; some others haven’t been able to pay their rent since this spring,” White continued.

“They are struggling to remain housed while dealing with other issues such as food and healthcare. Our food distribution alone has gone up 60 percent since the onset of the pandemic.”

White said Decatur Cooperative Ministry staff have been in the office every day since the onset of the pandemic and are working longer hours than ever before. The organization operates a shelter, which she said is the only locally based shelter in DeKalb County. Staff there are taking extra measures in assuring that every space and every piece of furnishing and equipment is as clean as possible. “People are fearful of shelters right now, but we’ve made sure everything is properly sanitized and personal protection equipment is used,” she said, adding that the shelter has had no health issues. “We used to be a night shelter; now we operate 24 hours a day. All these things have really impacted our budget so the gift from Amplify couldn’t have come at a better time.”

She said Decatur Cooperative Ministry receives some government funds but is especially pleased with the unrestricted gifts from Amplify My Community. Funds from government agencies may require that recipient clients meet the federal HUD definition of homelessness, according to White. “Some of the people we work with may not technically be homeless by some standards, but they are living in places where no human being should live such as crowded motel rooms that were never intended as permanent residences.”

Decatur Cooperative Ministry offers transitional housing, shelter, homelessness prevention, rapid re-housing, and permanent supportive housing programs. The organization states that its programs “span the entire spectrum of currently recognized homelessness interventions.”

Founded in 1969, the nonprofit began as a partnership among 35 congregations from 14 denominations as well as private foundations, universities and schools, government agencies, community groups, and local businesses. Its stated mission is “to help families facing homelessness settle into safe, stable homes and build healthy lives filled with peace, hope, and opportunity.”


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