Local merchants and performers raise money for hurricane victims

by Amy Kingsley

Businesses from disparate sectors of Greensboro’s economy ‘— from retail to the arts ‘— have united in launching fundraising efforts to speed relief to the Gulf Coast in the wake of Hurricane Katrina’s devastating assault.

On South Elm Street, at least two dining establishments and two entertainment venues have organized hurricane fundraisers. The Green Bean, a coffee shop and arts venue, planted a Red Cross donation jar next to the baristas’ tip bucket. A giant thermometer on the wall will record the daily fundraising totals until the goal of $2,500 is met.

‘“You drink a cup of coffee every day,’” said owner Pete Schroth. ‘“Why not throw a couple of bucks in the jar while you’re here? We want to make it as easy as possible for people to donate.’”

Customers who have been directly impacted by the disaster and those who have simply been moved by the images and stories of suffering have already written checks and filled the donation jar. A heated conversation about federal response to Katrina raged at one of the tables Friday morning, Schroth said.

Discussion last week at Fincastle’s Diner a few blocks north of the Green Bean also turned toward the disaster. The tragedy personally affected owner and New Orleans native Emmett Morphis, whose Greensboro home now shelters a long-time friend and his family who evacuated the city. In response, Morphis cooked up a plan both to celebrate the food of the beleaguered area and raise relief money.

The diner’s menu will feature regional lunch specials such as a blackened catfish sandwich, shrimp and corn bisque. Ten percent of the proceeds from sales of the specials will benefit Catholic Charities. So far, the lunch plates have raised $600, with an eye toward $5,000 by the month’s end. Morphis hopes both his food and continued media coverage will keep New Orleans on people’s lips.

‘“You overhear people’s conversations and they are talking about [the hurricane],’” he said. ‘“I just hope that people keep talking. The worst thing that could happen is that people forget about it.’”

New Orleans has occupied the minds of staff members at Triad Stage for several months. Staff members from both the technical and artistic staff face the eerie prospect of polishing the edges this week of a production of the Big Easy’s most famous literary tribute ‘— Tennessee William’s A Streetcar Named Desire.

The play opens Wednesday (9/7) and will run through Sept. 25. After every performance, an actor from the 1940s drama will collect donations for the Red Cross to address the region’s humanitarian crisis.

Folks in the mood for lighter entertainment can wander down the street to comedy club the Idiot Box on Thursday for an evening of chow and improv comedy. Tickets run $15 and include Papa John’s pizza and wings along with the show. All of the proceeds from the event will benefit Red Cross hurricane relief.

Further from downtown, some retail centers are also positioning donation sites within easy reach of local shoppers. Four Seasons Town Centre on High Point Road will station Red Cross contribution centers in the guest services center and the mall management office.

Local disc jockey Chris Roulhac is coordinating a large-scale musical benefit similar to one she organized in January to benefit victims of the South Asian tsunami. Roulhac set a preliminary date of Sunday Oct. 2 for the benefit, which will likely take place at several venues across the Triad. Although it is hard to estimate the amount of money that might be collected, Roulhac hopes to surpass the $8,000 raised in January. Musicians owe a particular debt to two of the stricken states, Roulhac said.

‘“Mississippi and Louisiana have been so strong in the development of music in this country,’” she said. ‘“Even if you’re a bluegrass musician, you still have to have an appreciation for the jazz and blues from that area.’”

Bands and performers interested in playing at the event include Mitch Easter and Shalini Chaterjee. the Tremors, the Revelators, Bruce Piephoff, the Fairlanes, Stratocruiser and others. Canned foods and dry goods can be donated at several collection trucks around town.

To comment on this story, email Amy Kingsley at