Melissa McReynolds

September 6, 2008

A group of Brown County musicians are reaching out to their neighbors who struggle each day to put food on their tables.

The artists call themselves Brown County Musicians United to End Poverty. Their mission is "to gather musicians and other individuals interested in working together for the common cause of ending poverty in Brown County. ... Our ultimate goal is to help our impoverished neighbors unloose the shackles of poverty and experience hope."

Proceeds from the sale of their new, all-original-music CD It’s Not Just a Dream -- and from the release concert in Nashville the first weekend in October -- will benefit Mother's Cupboard Community Kitchen in Brown County (not to be confused with Mother Hubbard's Cupboard, the Bloomington food pantry).

July 17, 2007

At first glance, Beth Lodge-Rigal's classes and workshops are a refuge for women writers or women seeking to be writers.

But in actuality, Women Writing for (a) Change is a venue for all women seeking clarity, consciousness and community. The tool just happens to be the written word.

WWf(a)C seeks to inspire women to "craft more conscious lives through the art of writing and the practices of community," according to its brochure.

July 3, 2007

Third Thursdays at Nick’s English Hut
A benefit for Stepping Stones
423 East Kirkwood
Thursday, July 19
5–8 p.m.

Once a month Nick’s throws open its doors to aid a local not-for-profit. The brainchild of Natalie Cabanaw, a fave wait staffer of yours and mine, “Third Thursdays” has brought in hundreds upon hundreds for our area agencies.

“It’s a great way for people who don’t have a lot of cash to help donate,” says Natalie. “It adds up!”

Natalie donates all of her tips the night of the event – as does bartender Andrew Hilton. Additional wait staff pitches in, and 20 percent of the total food bill goes straight to the agency. The not-for-profit is asked to take the reins in advertising the event.

July 3, 2007

Bloomington Party for the Planet!
Ivy Tech Campus
200 Daniels Way
July 7
6 p.m.

The climate crisis can be solved! Join more than 2 billion people worldwide for this event – a pitch-in supper, conversations about what we all can do about our climate and the chance to learn more about the presidential candidates.

Bring a dish to share (a main dish for last names beginning with A-M, all others a salad, side dish or dessert), as well as a beverage and place setting for yourself. Alcohol is not permitted, as the gathering is in the student commons room.

May 23, 2007

Boogie-Woogie in Bryan Park
June 2
5-8:30 p.m.

A promise comes to life in Bryan Park when two exalted piano players arrive in Indiana next week. Local pianist Craig Brenner was recently awarded a grant from the Indiana Arts Commission to study with Bob Seeley and Big Joe Duskin -- among the greatest boogie-woogie and blues piano players, ever.

"I promised to use what I learned and help stage a large, outdoor concert and bring the artists to Bloomington, and to collaborate with other local organizations to make it happen," Brenner says.

April 24, 2007

Elder abuse. Domestic violence. Rape and gangs and homicide. Car bombings, kidnappings and more than 20 armed conflicts raging about the globe.

Knowledge about nonviolence already exists and is practiced throughout the world in schoolyards, workplaces and by not-for-profits in the Middle East, anyplace where people have been trained in nonviolent communication or similar applications. Yet it hasn’t manifested in politics at the local or national levels.

Fighters for an American Department of Peace like Gail Merrill want to change that. She became involved with the Department of Peace (DoP) campaign more than two years ago.

“I had reached a point of feeling hopeless and helpless about the culture of violence in our country and our involvement in the Iraq war,” she said.

July 2, 2006

What does it mean to be a welcoming and affirming church?

That was one of many topics pondered June 24 at "Journey Toward Justice: Promoting a Welcoming Society for Gay-Lesbian-Bisexual-Transgender People in Your Faith Community and Beyond."

"It is important that people of faith explore how they can be open and welcoming to everyone, including GLBT people," said participant Mark St. John of Indianapolis, one of 57 people who attended the three-hour workshop at Bloomington's First United Church.

April 23, 2006

In November, after six weeks on the job as a Red Cross Hurricane Katrina volunteer, Rob Lindsey of South Carolina experienced debilitating back pain.

"I'm generally good with pain," said Lindsey, whose relief assignments in New Orleans included emergency response vehicle driver, fleet maintenance and everything in between. "But I could barely move."

It was 7 p.m. Lindsey maintained he'd be fine till morning, would just ride out the suffering. Terry Cooney, his supervisor, insisted on taking him to the makeshift hospital at New Orleans' Civic Center.

"Terry waited forever with me," Lindsey said. "He said, 'We are the only family we've got right now. This is why I'm here.'"

April 9, 2006

First in a series

NEW ORLEANS — June 1 is the date lying heaviest on the mind of American Red Cross volunteer Terry Cooney.

"School's out in Houston that day," he says. "The children displaced by Hurricane Katrina and living in Houston will be returning to New Orleans. Will I be around to help them?"

Cooney spent the last seven months in New Orleans as an American Red Cross disaster relief volunteer. He started as the driver of one of hundreds of emergency response vehicles (ERVs) found throughout the city. He helped deliver hot meals, blankets, and other supplies to help people survive one of the worst disasters in American history.

A New Jersey native, Cooney landed in New Orleans when martial law still ruled.

"Families were too terrified to leave their homes," he says. "They would drill holes in their doors in order to see out. When our trucks would enter a neighborhood to deliver supplies, families would dart out, hearing our horns.

March 12, 2006

Bloomington Alternative correspondent Melissa McReynolds has spent three weeks volunteering with the Red Cross in New Orleans.

NEW ORLEANS — Kenny Wang said good-bye to his college buds in southern California. Arnel Robertson closed her day care in Anchorage. Dave Hawkins managed the largest night club in Nebraska for 10 years. Terry Cooney left his family's 135-year-old New Jersey real estate and insurance business.

All set aside their former lives, finding news ones as full-time American Red Cross volunteers, responding to the worst disaster in American history. None had disaster response experience prior to Katrina. Yet each answered the call and has remained in the trenches since month No. 1.

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