Thursday, January 21, 2010

Haiti Relief Jam benefiting Makarios

It was late Thursday morning and I received an email from my friend Martin Montero, @montero, that included Mehul Patel from Dominican Joes, Sharla Megilligan from Makarios International, Clayton Christopher from Sweet Leaf Tea and a few people from If I am leaving out someone, I'm sorry, remind me and I can edit this post easily. Everything happened so quickly that the whole experience seemed like a fast forward scene.

Moving on, the email in a nutshell said hey, we have a local business, Dominican Joe, who was connected to Makarios International down in the Dominican Republic. From what I knew about Dominican Joe, I knew that the coffee beans were bought from there and that on those coffee bean farms, workers were paid very well and treated great. In addition to that, other services were also provided. A big focus of Makarios International is education development. Everyone included in the email knew the relation very well so that checked mark the first requirement in coming together to answer the call of action. A COMMON PURPOSE. In any successful undertaking everyone must share the common purpose or vision.

When the earthquake had hit and devastated Haiti, the Makarios staff/community quickly mobilized to pack up supplies and drive them to the Haitian border.Well before the international community could render aid. As planes were backed up and unable to deliver supplies, Makarios International was shuttling supplies to those in immediate need. I'm sure Makarios was not the only presence in the Dominican Republic shuttling supplies to Haiti but they did have a local connection to an Austin business and its email somehow found its way to my Inbox.

Rewind to the night before.

On Wednesday night, I was working out at Golds Gym and was watching the news channel and it was covering the Haiti quake. As I ran on this stationary device going no where, I thought to myself "man this is really devastating, I need to do something. But what I asked what can I do?" I thought that night and didn't really come up with any great ideas other than donating funds to Red Cross or another organization soliciting for donations on TV. Every time I considered it, I would talk myself out of it by thinking about "what does $10 really do when its donated to a major non-profit?" At the time I wasn't aware of what Makarios was doing and didn't make the connection that maybe they are doing something.

Come Thursday morning, I get an email around 10:30 am from my friend Martin Montero out in Boston that included a few people on it that all provided something to make something happen to get support for Haiti and that they needed a group organizer. To have a willing group of complimentary components takes time to build so we had a foundation to implement something quickly. As soon as I read that email, I immediately responded and signed up for the task. I couldn't believe it, here came a great idea to do more for help to those in need than donating $10. Don't get me wrong donating $10 is great, it all adds up and without money the required needs can't be provided. I instantly thought of what we could do. That was to organize a benefit music concert. I had always wanted to organize a music event that benefited a cause, so here was an opportunity to do just that. But time was of the essence, peoples lives depended on food and medical supplies and every passing day more people died because of a lack of assistance.

After responding to the email that I would help lead the fundraiser. The next question was "When should we do it. The 18th, in just a few days away, or the 25th?" Without hesitation, I replied the 18th. I had images from the news of all the people in Haiti and thought to myself, "there's people hurting right now and every minute counts. Time is of the essence and every minute, hour, day people's chances of survival diminishes. So we had to act fast. I quickly got in touch with Mehul Patel, one of the owners of Dominican Joe, and we met face to face at Dojo within less 2 hours or something. We quickly met and got down to business. He brought me up to date on how Sharla was down in the Dominican Republic literally packing up and shuttling vans of supplies to the Haitian border to two specific orphanages that had many people but was not getting aid from large assistance initiatives. What better cause to support than donating funds to a local business that had an extremely strong tie to Makarios International in the Dominican Republic and was directly helping those in greatest need.

Mehul and I came to the conclusion that the quickest and most effective way to get the word out and coordinate a fundraiser to benefit those in direct need was to put on a benefit musical line up. We wanted to have a gameplan as quickly as possible because earlier that day or the day before, a local news station had contacted Dominican Joe to see what they were doing because of the quake and that they were going to come out to their coffee shop to get the word out. So now we knew what we were going to do and when. Check check. Now make it happen.

We left the details open and just ran with it. If we got a great response from bands to do this on such short notice then we would do it all day and even carry it on to other days or something. We hand a general idea, music event benefiting Makarios, and its on Monday. Time to be determined. We left the meeting and Mehul quickly got up a page on the Dojo site with a paypal button and updates of the unfolding music event benefiting Markaios within hours.

As Mehul went to do that and send out a message to the rest of the team. I dialed without hesitation my friend and colleague, Lucy Frost. I knew she was into music, bands, putting on shows and had a big 'ol kind heart and would definitely help out. Without surprise Lucy immediately signed up and got into it. It was a brief call to update her on the vision and she quickly got off and said, let me make some phone calls and send out some emails and we will make it happen. By the time I had talked to her, Mehul and I already had 3 bands from our meeting so we knew this had the potential to be a huge success. Now we had myself, Lucy and Marcus Lawyer working on getting bands.

Marcus Lawyer by the way is the general manager of Dojo and was huge in making this event the success it was. This guy is a freaking rock star, he worked like what 18 hours a day the days leading up to the event or something ridiculous like that. Music team check. Venue check, date check, partners check. Now what, gotta market this event. We need a name. I believe Martin was following the progress from afar and came up with Haiti Relief Jam. So that's what we decided. Haiti Relief Jam, Monday January 18th, visit for updates. We are rolling now. It was Thursday still and we had 3 days till Monday and its the weekend. We better blow up Twitter and Facebook to get Austinites support.

What better way to market a fundraiser for a great cause than with social media. Austin is one of the Top 10 Social Media using cities in the U.S., Yeah. So I quickly contacted a few people that I knew would help out because they are cool like that. The first three people I reached out to were all more than willing to help out in any way possible. Michael Pearson, @michaelpearsun aka THE MAN, Oscar Davila, @keepaustinwierd & @oscardavila, and Sonny Johns @sonnyjohns. I first met Mike within an hour or something ridiculous like that by the BestFit Media off at Doc's Motorworks on South Congress. Mike and I talked about the event and what we needed to do. While sitting at the bar, the Haiti news was on some of the screens over the bar and I kept just thinking, time is a ticking. I don't know what got into me but I started talking to the waitress behind the bar, Clair, who just gave off the vibe that she was a really sweet girl and I think I overheard her say something about the Haiti coverage and I was like, "Hey do you want to help us out with something we are doing that does something for the Haiti people" She said sure and we filled her in. She volunteered to help out in any way and she quickly got us in touch with a band, Love at War.

Within hours they were signed up to perform at Haiti Relief Jam. Mike volunteered to help us out with the music and social media area. He was all over this stuff. It was great connecting with him and making this happen with him, he was a great part in making this happen.

I got back to the office and emailed Sonny Johns and he quickly responded in email and twitter, he's all over the place (I'm sure he's reading this right now, lol). He signed up to help out in spreading the word. A few hours after I got in touch with Oscar Davila and he immediately said, let me know what I can do.

Social Media WAVE CHECK.

Ha so now we had;

Great connection to ground support in Haiti
Team working synergestically on different moving parts to reach a common goal. That of assisting the Haitian people in dire need.
Music lineup filling up

Now it was Thursday night and all this was accomplished in one day, are you kidding me. After leaving work around 6:30pm I get to Dojo to meet with my buddy Adam. We had arranged to hang out that night well in advance. Luckily, he brought his laptop because, I had left mine at work and my computer died. During that time, our page was up on the Dominican Joe's site and tweeting was going on gradually. To go and show you the power of social media and the digital age. There was a customer at Dojo who saw the page as it went up and emailed me to help out and we exchanged a few emails to find out he was in the coffee shop as well. His name was Brett Randell and I brought him up to speed and he jumped on board. He played in a band so we added him and he knew people as well so now he was part of the music team and helping out in social media.

Come Friday, it was now time to work out the details as the musical lineup formed. At this point we had 4 or 5 bands already committed to playing January 18th at times of their choice.

First we had to figure out ways that Sweet Leaf and could help out. We worked with Charla Adams from Sweet Lear and Kristin Owen from We brainstormed ideas amongst the group and we came up with a tea exchange for donations. Most importantly, Haiti Relief Jam gained two great volunteers in getting the word out through social media. Sweet Leaf also did an exchange for their new canned tea drink for any type of donation. I believe there were hundreds of those donations received, people really answered the call. Do512 got a flyer up on their site promoting the event on really short notice, so that was awesome. The Do512 social media team did a great job on Twitter, along with everyone else. It was quite the buzz because of everyone's promotion. The great thing about it all was not the online buzz but how those online friends were in many instances friends "in the real world" who are just as real as you and I. We all saw the need for Haiti Relief Jam and wanted to get the word out to the masses.

So about Sunday we pretty much had everything planned and figured out. By this time word started getting around and I was getting contacted by businesses wanting to get involved. Someone from Birds Barber Shop dropped off several pricey gift certificates. Someone from One: Help Haiti wipe its debt, , contacted me to set up a table and get petitions. I said heck yeah. From the get go we had a group representing Makarios and selling items made by Haitians and all proceeds went to benefit them. I can't remember the massage therapists name but she was awesome. I did not get a massage but she was giving massages for donations for like 8 hours. Talk about everyone doing something.

Monday comes, everything is pretty much being taken care of by Marcus Lawyer and his crew. By this time we had 18 bands booked to play all day January 18th from 10:00am to Midnight. Partners were ready to go and now it was like the movie quote from Field of Dreams "Build it and they will come" Mike assured me they would without a doubt. I was at work for that whole morning and afternoon. Luckily, I got a few chances to drive by during the day. When I went to go pick up lunch, I drove by and there were people waiting outside. It must have been around the time that the band from ACL went on. I kept in touch with everyone over there. Three news stations ended up going and covering the event. Just goes to show you what social media and emailing can do.

I did get to make it to see my friends perform, Bridgette Kern and Jerry at 5:30pm. If you haven't heard these guys, they rock. They are the next big thing. They put on a great show as usual. After them, The Jitterbug Vipers came on and they were phenomenal. I'm definitely a fan after seeing them play. Be sure to check them out. I did not get a chance to see Love at War. By this time I was starving and being killed with allergies. I had to get something to eat. I made it back in time to see Brent Randell. He put on a pretty good show as well.

Following Brett Randell was the incredible 15 year old phenom Ruby Jane. She just got off of tour with the legend Willie Nelson. This young lady sure can play the fiddle. She put on a phenomenal show. The fiddle and the rest of her band made for an awesome show.

After Ruby Jane, Brian Hudson went on. Formerly from the Hudson's, they were voted best folk band two years in a row. By this time some news station was out there filming him. Trying to find the links so I will add them as comments when I get them back again. Moving on. Because of something with the next band wanting to get too ridiculous with a huge set up that the Dojo band area couldnt support we had to improv the show a bit. So Brian Hudson played extra long and spent a good portion of the extra hour or so playing with Ruby Jane. Truly a unique experience and may never be heard again unless they look to follow up on the performance. I had never heard the two before and am not really into that genre of music but I am going to definitely start listening and going to their shows from now on.

The shows kept on getting better. Jimi Lee switched with Austin Heat for the 10:45pm show. By this time the crowds started to dwindle. It was no longer packed and with lines out the door, which by the way happened in the early evening as well. Jimi Lee was personally my fav show. Its not too often you get to see a guy sing, play the harmonica and play the guitar. This was was incredible. That's all I can say about it.

I was only able to stay for a bit of the Austin Heat show. This guys rocked the house that it was too much for me. The energy and awesome jams I did get to hear was the best way to end Haiti Relief Jam.

Today is January 28th and its been 10 days since the event. That's quite awhile. Now we have had a moment to take a look back and see its effect.

We raised over $6,000 and still counting.

That $6,000 went towards buying supplies to shuttle to various unassisted areas of refuge. In particular two small non-profit orphanages that were not getting any assistance and had 65 people at one and 75 at the other. $2000 purchase the following:

20 tarps
300 diapers
120 bags of oatmeal
15 cases of water
240 pounds of salamis
228 pounds of powdered milk
20 containers of cooking oil
30 cans of beans
75 pounds of rice
15 boxes baby cereal
antibiotics and painkillers for 80 people
an assortment of other medical supplies

So somewhere less than 3 times that but more than twice that.

You can also follow Makarios' updates on their homepage at:

Now what?

Well Makarios is going to continue doing what it does and so is Dominican Joe, answering the call. Here in Austin we are talking about continuing the relief efforts. This is not going to be restored nor remedied any time soon. It is going to take A LOT of TLC. Groups are working on future benefits so follow the link, , for updates.

I for one have some ideas on some things so I that may be a future post.

I want to thank everyone for coming together to answer the call of action. This event could not have been executed as flawlessly as it did if we did not have every single person involved in every step of the way.

Together we can always make a difference.

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