A musical fest for a worthy cause

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Mayor Samaras is the first to admit his musical tastes may not particularly be in line with his predecessor’s.  But when it comes to raising funds for a good cause, the mayor is more than willing to trade in his Perry Como tunes for some local Rock ‘N Roll.

Tuesday November 27th is 2018’s Giving Tuesday.  And in what is a new Giving Tuesday tradition, Lowell will descend upon Olympia’s Zorba Music Hall for the 2nd Annual Mayor’s Holiday Fest for Homeless Youth.  The event will be raising funds for the Mayor’s Fund for Homeless Youth at Community Teamwork.

The event originated with former Mayor (and now State Senator-elect) Edward Kennedy’s trips to Somerville for the Annual Boston Calvcade for Homeless.  Mayor Kennedy and his friends frequented the event at the legendary Johnny D’s before deciding in 2017 to import the format to Lowell’s local music scene.

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“I’ve never been shy about stealing a good idea” Kennedy joked on an interview with WCAP to promote the event.

Many of those friends and fellow music fans joined together with others to create a volunteer event committee which has planned the event over the past two years.  The 2018 committee members include Jon Geer, Joe Graham, Frank Heslin, John Heslin, Bob Hoey, Rick Lalime, Connie Martin, Jack McWilliams, James Ostis,  Julia Ripa,  Judy Saba , and Arty Tingas.

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Back: William “Bill” Samaras, Jen Myers, Vanna Howard, James Ostis, Joe Boyle, Corey Belanger; Front: Vesna Nuon, Karen Cirillo

Similarly to Somerville’s event, the charity of choice was targeted on serving the area’s homeless population–with Lowell’s event specifically focused on the problem of Youth Homelessness.

After researching local non-profits, the committee chose to partner with Community Teamwork Incorporated who deliver vital direct services to help folks find and sustain safe, affordable, decent housing.

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School Committee member Connie Martin with a surprise rendition of Santa Baby

It is the focus on young people with housing issues that is most near and dear to the heart of Mayor Samaras, who knew of the struggles some students at Lowell High School faced with homelessness.

The 2017 inaugural event featured thirteen musical acts including a local headliner Gary Hoey, brother of Lowell School Committee member, Bob Hoey. The event raised $11,000 that was donated to Community Teamwork for their efforts as the lead agency for the Merrimack Valley Youth Consortium that works to prevent youth homelessness. This program has been working with teens to help them reunite with their families, or find safe affordable housing on their own. In many cases it is simply a matter of helping a young person with a security deposit or to clear up past debts that can save them from spending years couch surfing, sleeping in their cars or in places not fit for human habitation.

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The Mayors at CTI’s Housing Summit in June 2018

On June 18th, CTI hosted a Youth Housing Summit at the UMass Lowell Inn & Conference Center. At that event, former Mayor Kennedy challenged his successor Mayor Samaras to beat the total that was raised in 2017.  With the help of several generous sponsors, the 2nd Annual Mayor’s Holiday Fest for Homeless Youth looks set to reach that mark.

This year’s show features even more local musical acts playing a combination of their own original music and festive holiday classics.  The confirmed performers include Marcia J. Macres and friends, Kevin Wall, Whisky Duo , Bradley Copper Kettle and FriendsNico Rivers and The Black Grass, Funrazrs, Emily DesmondBlindspotPeter LavenderTake Two –  Mike Gacek and Mike PoulinSIMPLICITY – Mickey Kanan of Blackheart , John Powhida, Love Train, Dan Styklunas of Downbeat 5 and George Bisson

Tickets are on sale online and will be available at the door.  Doors Open for the 2nd Annual Mayor’s Holiday Fest for Homeless Youth at 6:00 p.m.

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