Varick Street: More Than Just Drinking
December 16th 2011 · 0 Comments
BY MARK ZIOBRO
Known for the hustle and bustle of “Saranac Thursday,” which packs streets and drinking establishments during the summer, Varick Street has been getting an eye for another kind of party recently: Charities.
“The Hula Party for Food Bank,” held at The Electric Company on Varick Street, was the latest in a line of fundraisers using local musical talent to raise money for Uticans in need.
“This is third year we have done this,” stated Bill Wares, event organizer and Project Manager at Rome Labs for Artesian Technology Corp. “I just wanted to do something to help out the local community.”
The Hula Party featured performances from local musicians including “Sassafras Jenkins,” Joe Sweet, “Justin Cortez Band,” “Local All-Star Jam,” “Juke Box,” and others.
The event, which took place from 6 pm-midnight, was successful in raising money, food, and clothing for the Utica Community Food Bank on Bleecker Street.
“We had a very good turnout,” Wares said. “We raised money for the Food Bank, and received a lot of food and clothing from people who came to the event.”
According to Wares, the “Hula Party for Food Bank” (previously called “The Ugly Christmas Sweater Party”) came out of a collaboration between himself and the Utica Klubs Rugby Team, who sponsored the 1st event and have been tremendously supportive of all three fundraisers. All three events have raised both money and support for the Utica Community Food Bank.
“Both the men and women’s Rugby teams both always show a lot of support to this event,” Wares said.
Mark Wolber, President of the Board for the Utica Community Food Bank, had nothing but good things to say about both the fundraiser and Wares’ efforts.
“He wasn’t asked to do this — he wasn’t a member of the Board,” Wolber said. “When people do things like this for us, it reminds [the community] who we are and what we do.
“Our needs are 12 months a year,” Wolber continued. As people become more aware of who we are, they are stepping forward to help. This event was a case of an individual, and a member of the community, who wanted to be helpful in a big way.”
However, even more positive is the fact that the “Hula Party for Food Bank” fundraiser is not the exception, but the norm for Varick Street charity concerts.
On November 20th, a benefit was hosted at The Electric Company for Tony Thompson, a local artist who was recently hospitalized at the SUNY Upstate Hospital for several brain hemorrhages and other complications. The event was a way for the community to give back to Thompson, and help with his medical costs.
“It was a very positive event, with quality art,” said Mike Beck, owner of theKDCF.com, a Utica positive promotion website. “It was a great event for a great cause.”
Anthony Donaldson, co-owner of The Electric Company, was pleased with the turnout at the Food Bank fundraiser, and also with being able to help the Food Bank and other causes.
“We’ve done benefits for cancer, America’s Greatest Heart Run and Walk, Toys for Tots, Animals for Animal, and more,” he said. “For the Food Bank, we filled an entire truck with food. There are a lot of great people in this town that want to help out.”
So what’s next for the Food Bank fundraiser? Wares, who is leaving Utica for Orlando, FL for work, said he wishes to leave the event in good hands.
“I want someone who is willing to put in the time to keep this event going, and fun,” he said. “I will probably look to some of my friends or back to the Rugby team.”
Wares also added that the Food Bank is always looking for donations, of food, clothing, and basically anything you could think of to get someone back on their feet.
“Its easy to donate,” he said. “If you can get the items in your car and down to them, they have volunteers who can help you unload these items and carry them into building.”
In tough economic times, it’s easy to see that caring, local people can often make the difference in working to feed people, to help people, and to give them hope. The Tony Thompson benefit and the “Hula Party for Food Bank” are two examples of the kind of community spirit that can be fostered when compassionate and engaged people come forward for a cause and set a good example.
And, as far as the people of Utica can see, Bill Wares, The Electric Company, and the bars of Varick Street are doing a great job in helping to set that good example.
By Mark Ziobro