WHO concert supports the homeless

Organization provides shelter beds for those who need them during the winter

By Scott Hewitt, Columbian arts & features reporter



If you go

What: 14th annual Night of Song and Praise, benefiting the Winter Hospitality Overflow seasonal response to homelessness.

When: 7 p.m. Friday, Nov. 16.

Where: St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church, 8701 N.E. 119th St.

Cost: Free, but donations are gratefully accepted. All money goes to the WHO.

photoAnn Reazin interprets song lyrics in American Sign Language.

(/The Columbian)

One musical night can make a difference all winter long. Especially when it brings in thousands of dollars to help keep people off the cold streets overnight.

"It's a kick to be part of something that's so fruitful," said John Pezza. "Especially because there is so much out in the world that's just nonsense."

Pezza was taking a break from an evening rehearsal at St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church in advance of the 14th annual "Night of Song and Praise" in support of homeless people. The event is set for 7 p.m. Friday, at the church at 8701 N.E. 119th Street, in the Glenwood area, east of 72nd Avenue.

The concert beneficiary used to be Share Inc., which runs local shelters, soup kitchens and other poverty programs. In more recent years, the concert's revenues have all gone to the Winter Hospitality Overflow -- the WHO.

WHO is a partnership between the Council for the Homeless, a small army of volunteers and a couple of local churches. St. Andrew Lutheran Church in Orchards and St. Paul Lutheran Church in downtown Vancouver open their floors to people who can't find regular shelter beds when the weather gets harsh. The program runs every year from Nov. 1 to March 30.

St. Andrew has a bed capacity of 42 for single women, couples and families, plus eight additional emergency family spots, for a total of 50 beds. St. Paul accommodates 24 single men. Last year, the WHO provided shelter for 538 men, women and children in all.

WHO coordinator Kevin Hiebert said weather has been "weird so far this year," and not all beds have been full every night; other nights, both facilities have been at capacity and some shelter seekers have been turned away.

"We have a lot of new faces this year," Hiebert said. "There are a lot of people who are new to this and learning the rules and the WHO system."

The system is driven by more than 1,700 volunteers representing 50 local churches and other groups who donate time -- including overnight shifts -- and money to make it happen. More volunteers are always welcome. Call Hiebert at 360-699-5106, ext. 103.

The Friday concert is being staged by a couple of local congregations: Salmon Creek United Methodist Church and event host St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church. The sponsor is Salmon Creek Kiwanis.

A snatch of rehearsal heard by this reporter featured uplifting folk-style sounds with soaring harmonies and some snazzy flute. Plus, front and center is the bouncy washtub bass of Bobby Clark. Building that homemade sound into something really big are keyboard, 12-string guitar, mandolin, banjo and trumpet.

Plus, the Nov. 16 concert will feature a group of special guest stars: the Warner Pacific College men's vocal group, Bridgetown, will bring its big, polished, professional sound to round out the show.

The show will be about two hours long and full of variety,

said organizer Nancy Deibert of the St. John church. There's no admission fee, but all donations will be sent along to the WHO.

Deibert said the annual concert brings in roughly $10,000, which is something like 15 to 20 percent of the WHO's total budget for the year.

"It's another great example of the collaborative nature of the WHO," he said. "It's just a bunch of great people coming together to support a great cause."

"This tradition has really grown," said Deibert. "When we started out, we made about $500 and played mostly to our families."

Scott Hewitt: 360-735-4525; http://twitter.com/col_nonprofits;scott.hewitt@columbian.com.