This year has been one of the deadliest years for tornados in the United States in over a decade.
So far, Oklahoma has taken the brunt of the destruction, as a category EF-5 tornado leveled the town of Moore, Okla., on May 20, raising the state’s death toll to 24. Then, just 12 days later, the state was again devastated as a massive tornado struck nearby Oklahoma City, killing 18.
These devastating storms have caused untold tragedy for many Families, but have also brought about acts of kindness and compassion from people all over the country.
The wife of a Fort Bragg Soldier, Jill Charles, took it upon herself to come up with her own way to raise money for the Oklahoma victims. She did it by using the best resource she had at her disposal — her singing.
“I think they had made the announcement that one of the Oklahoma residents, a famous athlete, had donated a million dollars, and I was thinking to myself, ‘I don’t have a million dollars what can I do?’ Forty five minutes later I decided to call the Red Cross and tell them I wanted to do a benefit concert,” said Charles.
Once she contacted the Red Cross, things started moving fast.
Charles said a worker at the Red Cross put her in touch with the director of the local Red Cross who was impressed by her vocal talent.
“After she looked up my singing on You Tube, we started planning,” said Charles.
While making plans with the Red Cross, Charles had one stipulation. “I told them that I wanted 100 percent of the donations to go to the Oklahoma victims,” she said. “You have an option to put money into a general relief fund that goes all over, but I wanted the money to go directly to the Oklahoma victims because that’s where my heart was.”
It took a lot of planning and networking to get the benefit concert off the ground.
“There was a lot involved in setting this up. I had local people donate their time and resources like sound equipment and the stage,” said Charles.
Charles said another challenge was selecting an appropriate venue.
“We had to make sure there would be enough parking and also a place that would be easily visible to people passing by,” said Charles.
Charles had previously performed at the Carolina Ale House, and when she asked manager Sean Leininger if the restaurant would be interested, they jumped at the opportunity. “When Jill told us her idea, I knew it was a great opportunity to help the Oklahoma victims,” said Leininger.
In addition to hosting the benefit concert, the Carolina Ale House gave 10 percent of food and drink sales that night to the Red Cross. All patrons had to do was mention it to their waiter. The Red Cross also had a tent outside the restaurant by the stage where they were collecting donations.
“Any amount helps. If someone thinks that they have to come out and donate thousands of dollars they are mistaken. Think about the population of the area, if everyone just donated a dollar that would significantly affect the lives of the victims,” said Charles.
Also performing at the benefit was local singer Erik Smallwood who Charles invited to open for her.
“The Carolina Ale House asked me if there was anyone I knew that would also like to perform during the concert to make the benefit last longer and give people more opportunity to donate,” said Charles. “I knew I wanted someone that I liked and someone with a caring outlook like mine, so I called Erik Smallwood and asked him if he would play a 30 to 45 minute acoustic set for my benefit concert and he immediately said yes.”
The concert was held May 31 and according to the Red Cross, they made $534 in donations, not including the 10 percent per purchase from the Carolina Ale House.
This was another opportunity for Charles to use her music to give back to her community, while showcasing her musical talents.
“People say I wear my heart on my sleeve, I don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing, but that’s me,” said Charles.