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  • Carolyn Gauthier

Cultivating Connections in 2020: New Programs for Our Isolated Audiences

What has Bread & Roses been up to since March? We’ve been doing the Pandemic Pivot! It’s a kind of dance that we have all been doing during this time called the “new normal.” Since our main focus is making connections, here is how we are continuing to stay in touch.

Our facility audiences have not been forgotten! Videos of live performances are being sent to audiences at 89 facilities: 31 serving adults, 24 for seniors and 34 for youth. This is 73 percent of the 122 facilities we currently have on our roster. To date, we have sent almost a hundred video links, many of which are professionally filmed concerts sent to us by our volunteer performers.

Congressman Jared Huffman sits in with Bread & Roses volunteer performer Jeffrey Halford at the San Francisco-Marin Food Bank program in San Rafael. Photo by Diane Pickell-Gore

We have continued live outdoor “Courtyard Concerts” in places where everyone can be safely distanced including a weekly series at The Redwoods in Mill Valley. This has been a very satisfying collaboration with a facility we’ve been serving for over forty years. We are bringing musicians to play for the people waiting in line to get supplies at some of the San Francisco-Marin Food Bank locations in almost 50 programs since July. We also are bringing live entertainment to the homeless (Homeward Bound of Marin/New Beginnings), adults in recovery (Center Point RWC) and children (24 Hour Childcare and the North Bay Children’s Center.)

A young boy at the North Bay Children's Center enjoys an outdoor bubble program by Sterling The Bubblesmith on a sunny morning in October. Photo by Marian Hubler

Our performers continue to show up with their talent and generosity. In addition to providing videos and links to their performances, since April 1 they have played live concerts for our isolated audiences in 84 outdoor shows and 34 Zoom shows.

Several performers have “adopted” a facility by doing multiple shows on Zoom for the same audience, thus forming a relationship through interactive shows. Lyle Belger is performing several series of weekly shows for The Cedars of Marin, David Gans has taken on Ability Now in Oakland, and Doug Zesiger of Stinky Tales is working with BAHIA school age program in Berkeley. We are doing special themed shows via Zoom including Veterans Day programs with the Lovin’ Harmony Trio at Vivalon (formerly Whistlestop) and with Chappell and Dave Holt at the Menlo Park VA Hospital as well as special holiday concerts at a number of places including a series for the men and women at the Maple Street Correctional Center in Redwood City.

One of our outstanding volunteer groups, The Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir has been performing a holiday show through Bread & Roses every year since 1990 for incarcerated audiences. Their members have said the most meaningful concerts they perform all year are their Bread & Roses shows for the men and women at jails and prisons throughout the Bay Area. This season, we are facilitating the screening of their documentary film “One Voice” at a number of detention facilities that we currently serve and to whom we hope to deliver the choir’s 35th Annual Holiday Concert being recorded in December. We appreciate their longtime support of our mission and are proud to be partnering with them on these and future projects.

Our donors remain engaged through our newsletter The Heartbeat and have continued to support our organization. Our Fall Appeal, featuring a heartfelt message from renowned bass player Tony Saunders, is getting a wonderful response with much-need generous gifts flowing in to maintain our program and sustain our organization.

The Bread & Roses community is made up of a wide variety of people and places. Our connections with volunteer performers, donors and isolated individuals continue to be an essential part of our mission. We are grateful for the relationships that we have formed over the past 45 years and know that we will continue to cultivate them for many years to come.

By Carolyn Gauthier, Vice President, Programs

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