giveHOPE concert

Musicians from throughout Steele County come together year after year to raise money that will help keep people from being evicted out into the cold. The giveHOPE concert, benefiting Transitional Housing of Steele County, will return at 7 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 27, in the Owatonna High School auditorium. (Photo courtesy of Michael Ferch)

It has been nearly two years since a broad group of local musicians was able to come together for a powerful cause. Ready to get back to the stage, one of Owatonna’s biggest charity concerts is set to return next weekend.

On Saturday, Nov. 27, the giveHOPE concert will take place at 7 p.m. in the Owatonna High School auditorium. The concert is open to the public and is seeking free will donations. Sponsored by HomeTown Credit Union, Mohs Homes, Bohlen Plumbing and Heating, and one anonymous sponsor, all donations collected during the event will go directly to Transitional Housing of Steele County to assist those within the community on the brink of homelessness.

While this will be the seventh year the event has taken place, organizers had to miss one year due to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. Michael Ferch, who co-founded the concert alongside his wife, Tammi, said all the musicians are ecstatic to finally come together again and put on a one-of-a-kind show for Owatonna.

“This is the kind of event people would typically see in the metropolitan area, but the good news is that it’s just a short drive away,” Ferch said. “It’s all local musicians raising local dollars to help locally.”

As a musician, Ferch admits he is anxious to get back to performing, but as a resident of Steele County, he said this concert means so much more.

“Obviously we have missed doing this — it’s fun for us. We’re musicians so we love to make music,” Ferch said. “But the worst part of missing last year is that the need didn’t go away for Transitional Housing … In times like this [the need] actually increases.”

Julie Anderson, executive director of Transitional Housing, confirmed the phones have been “ringing off the hooks” during the pandemic, but especially since the lift of the eviction moratorium last month. Through the nonprofit’s “Eviction Protection” program, Anderson said people on the edge of being evicted are able to get one-time assistance and remain in their homes for another month or two.

“We were anticipating this could happen — that this uptick could occur,” Anderson said. “During the pandemic, people were suffering with all the uncertainty. They lost jobs, lost wages. But at least they were safe and secure in the fact that they could remain housed. Now that’s not the case.”

The money raised at the giveHOPE concert will go directly to the Eviction Protection program, Anderson said, and every dollar makes a difference. She said it usually takes only $500 to keep someone from being evicted and allowing them to get back on their feet, and Ferch said that is exactly the mission of the concert.

“We know that all it takes is suddenly a car breaking down or a medical bill coming up and then they have a choice to make: pay the bill or pay rent,” Ferch said. “Often, rent is the one that gets set by the wayside.”

Though Ferch and his family have been fortunate to live a comfortable life, he said it isn’t too hard for him to imagine what it would be like to be faced with such uncertainty and fear. Looking back to when he and his wife were first married, Ferch said their situation wasn’t all too different from the people they are hoping to help next weekend.

“It felt like we didn’t have two nickels to rub together,” Ferch said. “Thankfully there were things available to us like financial aid, subsidized housing, WIC vouchers and things that when you’re in need for a period time are available to you so that you can get on your feet and set the right course.”

“I had that help,” he continued. “So what can I do to lend a that hand to other people who might be in the same situation?”

In 2019, the concert raised $6,000 for Transitional Housing. Naturally, the 20-some musicians who are coming back together this month hope to meet that same number and then some.

Anderson, however, is amazed at the generosity Steele County continues to show in an effort to help people they may never meet.

“What I love is how these musicians are using their talents in such a meaningful way, and they are getting tangible results,” Anderson said. “They get up and sing and the results are that people then stay in their housing. It’s a tremendous gift.”

Reach Associate Editor Annie Granlund at 507-444-2378 or follow her on Twitter @AnnieGranlund. ©Copyright 2021 APG Media of Southern Minnesota.

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