Soulful songs help Safe Nights

Concert to benefit homeless planned

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

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Jimmy Passwaters is one of the entertainers scheduled to perform gospel music at a concert March 21 at Fellowship Church in White Plains to benefit LifeStyles of Maryland's Safe Nights program.

Fellowship Church is wedding a love of old-fashioned gospel music to an urgent need to support a program that benefits Charles County's homeless population by sponsoring a gospel concert at the church in White Plains.

Butch Hunt, owner of Hunt Ford in La Plata and president of the La Plata Business Association, came up with the idea to hold the concert at the church, said the Rev. Marvin Harris, Fellowship's pastor. Hunt along with his son, Jeff, will be performing at the March 21 concert.

"It's a great idea," Harris said. "Some of the churches near us are part of the Safe Nights program. We've got to help the homeless. It could be any one of us next."

LifeStyles of Maryland Inc. in La Plata — a nonprofit agency that assists people who are economically disadvantaged by providing counseling, food and housing services — established Safe Nights in 2005. The program offers homeless people a warm place to rest at night along with a hot dinner and breakfast at 18 churches throughout Charles County, said Sandy Washington, LifeStyles' executive director. The program runs from Nov. 1 to March 31.

The need to house homeless families and individuals is increasing as the economy worsens and more people are losing their jobs and homes, Washington said. On average, 30 people are housed at a Safe Nights shelter each night.

"It's been crazy but the program is running smoothly," she said. "The only problem that we've had is the days have been really cold so we end up keeping the church open to house people during the day.

"Homelessness is worsening; our numbers have gone up," she added. "We're seeing more and more people who have mental illness and substance abuse issues than we've ever seen before. People are self-medicating because of their circumstances."

The gospel concert at Fellowship Church is free, but people will be asked to give a love offering to benefit the Safe Nights program, Harris said.

"I was really excited when Butch Hunt came to us and said that he wanted to do this for us," Washington said.

"This is what we're supposed to do," said Hunt, who is a member of Fellowship Church. "Safe Nights is a great program. It's important that we help the homeless as much as we can. This concert gives the community the opportunity to come out and enjoy the music and help the homeless."

Jimmy Passwaters, a gospel music performer who lives in Greensboro on the Eastern Shore, is one of several entertainers who will be performing at the concert. A minister, Passwaters plays the guitar, drums, bass and piano.

"We, as performers, should give of our time for this cause," he said. "If I was out in the cold I would appreciate it."

The bluegrass group Sonrise, and gospel performer J.D. Davenport will also perform at the concert.

"We need to reach out to others," Harris said. "I'm just delighted that we're having this concert at the church."

As the economy worsens nonprofits will keep struggling to survive, Washington said.

"People who need help are going to agencies that can't help them anymore," she said.

"It sometimes comes down to either paying our utilities bills or paying our clients' bills. It's tough times. I just pray that some of the federal government's recovery money gets down to the people who really need it."

Songs to help homeless folks

The Fellowship Church at 9805 Faith Baptist Church Road in White Plains will hold a gospel concert at 7 p.m. March 21 to benefit LifeStyles of Maryland's Safe Nights program. The program provides the homeless population in Charles County a safe and warm place to sleep at local churches. Performers at the concert include Jimmy Passwaters, J.D. Davenport, the Sonrise bluegrass group, Butch Hunt and Jeff Hunt. The concert is free, but offerings will be accepted to benefit Safe Nights. Call Butch Hunt at 301-934-8186.

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