Beginning Sept. 5, Memphis will once again come together to Rock for Love.
The seventh annual, three-day fundraiser for the Church Health Center, providing health care for the working uninsured, will kick off that Thursday evening with a VIP barbecue at Ardent Studios.
The Levitt Shell at Overton Park once again will be one of the host venues for Rock for Love, the annual fundraiser for the Church Health Center that is in its seventh year.
And this year there’s a twist.
“While it’s a VIP barbecue for donors, bands, sponsors and friends of the center, there is a public ticket component so folks from the community can purchase a ticket, or a table for that matter,” said Jeff Hulett, public relations and communications coordinator for the Church Health Center.
The following night sees a bill of four bands at Young Avenue Deli in Cooper-Young, featuring the Side Street Steppers, Reemus Bodeemus, Hope Clayburn’s Soul Scrimmage and Kaleidophonix, as well as DJ Devin Steel between sets. Saturday puts a new spin on the raucous tradition with a family-friendly event at Overton Park in the afternoon.
“It’s free, but we’re encouraging donations and beer will be for sale,” Hulett said.
The afternoon will feature various kids activities, arts and crafts tables, the Grizzlies’ bounce houses and a bake sale. It all will be happening close to the newly renovated and opened playground, with an atmosphere Hulett compares to the popular Memphis Rock-n-Romp events.
That same night sees a concert at the Levitt Shell, featuring up-and-comers Mark Stuart with Kait Lawson, as well as Patrick Dodd, John Kilzer and Kirk Whalum.
“That should be a lawn filler, should be just a great night,” Hulett said.
The show is free but, Hulett adds, “We’re going to have an army of Levitt Shell and Church Health Center volunteers out there raising money for both entities.”
Along with the music shows and children’s activities, an online auction is ongoing and has already raised close to $2,000. T-shirts are for sale and a new compilation CD featuring participating bands will be out soon.
Rock for Love was the brainchild of Church Health Center employees Marvin Stockwell and Hulett, and their friend J.D. Reager, all Memphis musicians.
“We weren’t fundraisers; we’re still not. We’re not part of the fundraising department,” said Stockwell, communications director for the organization. “Rock for Love was a project that we didn’t necessarily have time to do, but we almost viewed as our volunteer project.”
Reager is solely a volunteer to the Church Health Center.
The first hurdle was a name, and as Stockwell cast about for something quick and catchy, he kept coming back to the overarching theme of the Church Health Center’s mission to the community, reading it in Bible verses and seeing it manifested in the sculptures on the center’s Peabody Avenue grounds: Love. Playing off the name of a fundraiser already in place, Concert of Love, which featured the music of church choirs, Stockwell, a hard-playing guitarist and singer himself, coined Rock for Love. The three leveraged their years as working musicians to put together a lineup.
Since the first year, when funds raised totaled about $7,500, the total has climbed each year, with last year seeing $50,000. As impressive as that is, it’s a mere drop in the open guitar case for the Church Health Center’s annual budget of $16 million.
Rock for Love, however, has a different mission. It is the largest event the center puts on, and it’s the awareness, Hulett says, on which you can’t put a price.
“The positive damage we want to do is in friend-raising and awareness-raising, and saying, ‘Hey, we’re here to serve you if you need us,’ or we’re sowing seeds trying to get that next generation of support,” he said. “These young folks that are coming to the shows, in five, 10, 15 years, are going to be the people that will have the capacity to give.”
Stockwell has been thrilled over the years with the eagerness for involvement of the musicians and bands – part of the very core of those the Church Health Center seeks to help – and the question of its success is no question at all for him.
“Why has it grown? Because Memphis is generous,” he said. “Our music community and our creative community are generous, and they want to give back, and they see that the Church Health Center is an organization that’s helped them.”
Sponsors of Rock for Love 7 include SunTrust Bank, Huey’s, WMC-TV, Clear Channel Radio, Sun Studio, Elvis Presley Enterprises and the Memphis Convention & Visitors Bureau. For more information, visit rockforlove.org.