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VOL. 127 | NO. 171 | Friday, August 31, 2012

Midtown Gears Up for Largest Rock for Love Benefit

By Aisling Maki

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From Overton Square to the Hi-Tone Cafe to the Levitt Shell, Midtown Memphis is gearing up to “Rock for Love.”

Stax music legend Booker T. Jones will close the Rock for Love weekend Sept. 9 with a free all-ages concert at the Levitt Shell in Overton Park.

(Photo: Courtesy of the Church Health Center)

Now in its sixth year, the annual music-based fundraiser for Memphis’ Church Health Center – the nation’s largest faith-based health care ministry for working, uninsured people and their families – will take place over a four-day period from Thursday, Sept. 6, through Sunday, Sept. 9.

To date, the benefit has raised more than $120,000 for the Church Health Center, which logs close to 40,000 patient visits annually, with sliding-scale fees based on income.

This year’s festivities will kick off Thursday night with an 18-and-over show at the Hi-Tone, 1913 Poplar Ave., featuring Jim Mize, Mouserocket, The Merry Mobile and Mark Edgar Stuart.

On Friday night, the Hi-Tone will host Star & Micey featuring Jody Stephens, Snowglobe, Wuvbirds and singer Chris Milam.

On Saturday, Overton Square will play host to a family friendly street festival, which will double as the Church Health Center’s 25th birthday party, featuring vendors, healthy cooking demos, bike rodeo, valet bike parking, food trucks, children’s activities and more.

“It’s the public celebration of the Church Health center’s 25th birthday,” said Church Health Center communications coordinator Jeff Hulett, who, along with colleague Marvin Stockwell and musician J.D. Reager, founded Rock for Love. “We’re going to have balloons and a cake, and Mayor (A C) Wharton and (Church Health Center founder) Dr. (Scott) Morris will be out there, as well as our staff, who’ll be collecting donations and saying ‘thanks for supporting us for 25 years.’”

The festival will also feature a host of diverse live music acts ranging from the Memphis Dawls to the Stax Academy Band to Larry Raspberry and the Highsteppers featuring the original Gentrys.

Festival entry is free, but donations will be accepted throughout the day and a portion of food and drink sales will benefit the Church Health Center.

And the festivities will culminate Sunday at the Levitt Shell in Overton Park, where Stax legend Booker T. Jones will headline a concert, opened by rapper Al Kapone.

The concert is free, but donations are encouraged and merchandise sales and a portion of concession sales will support the Church Health Center.

This year’s four-day festival is a first for Rock for Love, which in past years has lasted only two days.

“Rock for Love has grown every year because people love the Church Health Center and love great Memphis music,” said Stockwell, the Church Health Center’s public relations manager. “A healthy and thriving Midtown community is healthy for all of Memphis, so expanding the show to Overton Square and the Levitt Shell just made sense.”

In addition, an online auction that will run through Monday, Sept. 10, at www.rockforlove.org, features items such as Memphis Grizzlies and University of Memphis basketball fan packages; Delta Airlines vouchers; a New Belgium Beer tasting and dinner for 10; and a tour of the historic Sears Crosstown Tower with wine and tapas for four people.

In fact, the Church Health Center this month announced that the entire organization, which currently operates out of 11 facilities, will eventually move into the soon-to-be redeveloped Sears Crosstown.

Morris, a physician and United Methodist minister, founded the Church Health Center in 1987. He had arrived in Memphis with a mission to begin a health care ministry for the working poor and their families.

Morris, who continues to lead the center and serve clients daily, chose Memphis because it’s historically one of the nation’s poorest major metropolises.

There are today clinics across the country modeled after the Church Health Center. Several performers involved in Rock for Love over the years have benefited from the services of the center, as patients at its clinic and through the Center’s Memphis Plan – an employer-sponsored plan for small businesses and the self-employed, including musicians.

Relying on donated services from volunteer doctors and area hospitals and laboratories, the plan offers uninsured people in lower-wage jobs access to quality, affordable health care for about $50 a month, with the employer paying at least $10.

Dependent care is available with a family maximum fee of $125 a month. More than 1,500 area businesses participate in the plan, which covers more than 3,500 workers and more than 1,500 of their dependents.

The plan also brings more than $2 million of annual revenue to the Church Health Center, which operates on a $16 million annual budget and relies heavily on private donations.

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