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December 18, 2014
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'If music be the food of love..."


Rock on! Hard to know for sure, but I would like to think that Shakespeare would approve of me reinterpreting his (“Twelfth Night”) sentiment, considering the circumstances.

Once again, I am overwhelmed by community outreach here in the Catskills. Now in its third year, “The Great Sullivan County Food Raiser” has grown exponentially. Spearheaded by Stacy Cohen, proprietor of the Dancing Cat Saloon (845/583-3141) in Bethel, NY, last week’s food raiser was (“Measure for Measure”) a smashing success.

With more than 30 musical acts, playing simultaneously in four venues, the event drew folks from every corner of the region (in spite of inclement weather) out to dance, sing and play their way into the hearts of those in need.

The press release read, in part: “The music is free, but if you can afford $5, that is what it takes to feed one person, $10 feeds two and $30 feeds a family of six!” Created in conjunction with Community Unity of Sullivan County, the event not only raises much-needed funds, but social consciousness as well.

Volunteer-driven Community Unity (recovery-center.com) is “committed to making a difference in Sullivan County, NY—raising awareness about those issues which affect the quality of life in Sullivan County. Through fund raising events and collaborative efforts, along with enthusiastic volunteers and local business support, we are able to continue to make a difference.”

I found myself at the Dancing Cat the night before (to check out the debut of rockin’ new band Yasgur) and sat with Cohen to discuss the upcoming event.

Exuberant and excited, Cohen informed me that even prior to the weekend, folks were digging into their pockets to support the cause. “We’ve raised money already,” she exclaimed, “and we haven’t even begun.”

Impassioned and committed, Cohen managed to get me excited in advance. I was not alone with my concern about the “Winters Tale” weather report and in response, the Cat announced on their website (dancingcatsaloon.com) that the music would play on into the next day, in case of stranded would-be participants.

Along with the saloon and adjacent Catskill Distilling Company, musicians tuned up at Dutch’s Tavern in Rock Hill (845/794-8950), and Mr. Willy’s in Monticello (845/794-0888).

As it turned out, my concern was “Much Ado About Nothing” and Cohen informed me after the fact that “of the 30 or so musical acts, not one called to cancel—and kept it going the following day. All of the people that donate their time, and the support from the community, is overwhelming. Since this is a no overhead event, every dime raised goes directly to the 15 food banks and the federation to help those in need throughout the county.”

Far too numerous to mention individually, suffice it to say that a wide array of bands and solo performers were on hand, an endless variety of musical appetites sated (“As You Like It”), and that the appetites of those in need will be met—for now. Striking a chord with those in attendance is great, but the food banks are open and in need throughout the year. This worthy cause will continue into the good night, therefore “Stacy & Friends” will not stop in their quest to champion the cause, along with the hundreds of supporters and tireless volunteers that this great event has drawn.

A follow-up conversation with Cohen clearly illustrated the point. “Considering the bad weather in Sullivan County, all involved feel really good about the community,” she said. “We figure, when all is in, that the donations received will be close to $10,000. The lion’s share came in from the $5 and $10 donations, alongside generous private contributors and corporate donations from Crystal Run and Jeff Bank.”

“If music be the food of love” still rings true, long after Mr. Shakespeare put pen to paper, and I am proud to be a member of this community, prouder still of the accomplishments and dedication I recognize in others. The immediacy of these efforts is enormously rewarding to observe and makes me want to be a better person, to reach out to the community personally and to help make sure, that at the end of the day (one dollar at a time), that “Alls Well That Ends Well.”