Inaugural Christmas Means Giving event delivers beyond expectations

by Ryan Snyder

Logie Meachum sits in with Sam Fribush’s Weaver Academy Trio at the first annual Christmas Means Giving event at the Boiler Room. (photo by Ryan Snyder)

In a time of year where charity fatigue — whereby people become hardened to donation requests due to constant bombardment or oversaturation — is all but a guarantee, one local fundraiser still found a way to get Christmas cheer to those most in need. The first annual Christmas Means Giving event benefitting the Marine Corps Toys for Tots drive was held at the Boiler Room in Greensboro this past Friday, and by all accounts, it was successful beyond expectations.

At a count of 110 total ticketed guests, plus 10 staff members, attendance figures surpassed the Boiler Room’s max capacity of 99. Organizers were prepared to implement a one-in, one-out policy should the need have arisen, but the at-once attendance never went beyond legal capacity. At a ticket price of $15 per guest and roughly $50 per sponsor ticket, the event brought in a total of $2,900, of which a net $2,100 went directly to the Marine Corps Toys for Tots Foundation less the $800 in talent, hospitality and staffing expenses. Most artists played for free, though touring act and event headliner Sam Quinn the Japan Ten reduced their booking fee by half in order to cover their own logistical expenses.

In addition to the money collected, the event garnered 203 new, unwrapped toy donations. At an average cost of $5 per toy, and factoring in the percentage of all donations that go towards the foundation’s administrative expenses, an estimated 532 new toys will be delivered to needy children on this Christmas thanks to this one event.

Timely and noble cause aside, the event was noteworthy also for the cast of outstanding musicians on hand. Some came with expectations that were undoubtedly met — headliner Sam Quinn, for example.

Others, however, were a revelation. Eleven-year-old Ranford Almond was arguably the biggest surprise of the evening, displaying maturity beyond his years in both song selection and pure instrumental ability. His young voice acquiesced impeccably into his traditional interpretation of the WC Handy standard “Beale Street Blues,” while covers of Townes Van Zandt’s “Greensboro Woman” and Ryan Adam’s “Oh My Sweet Carolina” furthered showed a willingness to tackle material incomprehensible to the typical 11-year-old musician.

Elsewhere, the song selections overall were warm, festive and sometimes downright funky. Possum Jenkins’ Brent Buckner and Dave Willis loosened up the crowd after a last-minute conflict led to Walrus front man Ray Loughran’s cancellation. Amelia’s Mechanics’ Kasey Horton and Molly Miller played a set laced with bar-bawlers like Death Cab for Cutie’s “I Will Follow You Into the Dark” and a few of their own originals, sandwiched with Elvis’ “Blue Christmas.” After his own bubbly set, bluesman Logie Meachum lent vocal support to Sam Fribush’s Weaver Academy Trio, with Jeff Hinson of Doby on bass.

As far an encore next year, organizer and promoter Neal Davis says that the success of the inaugural event almost demands growth in 2011. The event was intentionally underpromoted due to the space constraints, but will almost assuredly move to a larger space next year to accommodate what he hopes will be a consistently growing audience and willing supporters for the cause.

“Our main goal this year was to keep expenses and expectations low and the contribution to and awareness about Marine Toys for Tots Foundation high,” Davis said. “By assisting Toys for Tots, [this] is a message of hope to less fortunate youngsters that will assist them in becoming responsible, productive, patriotic citizens.”