NEW YORK – Melissa Etheridge says the star-studded Love Rocks NYC benefit, the annual concert for the nonprofit God’s Love We Deliver, is exactly the kind of fundraiser she wanted to join.
“I’ve wanted to be involved in this wonderful, wonderful project that has just done so much for so many for so many years,” the Grammy-winning “I’m the Only One” rocker said.
This year’s Love Rocks, which takes place at The Beacon Theatre in Manhattan on Thursday night, boasts enormous star power – including headliners Etheridge, Keith Richards, with his “other” band The X-Pensive Winos, Mavis Staples, and others, as well as hosts including Kiefer Sutherland and Mario Cantone. But for Karen Pearl, God’s Love We Deliver’s president and CEO, what this one night generates for her group year-round is what makes it even more special.
After two years of audiences limited due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this year’s event is back at full force. (The event will also be livestreamed and archived at loverocksnyc.com.) The proceeds from ticket sales and sponsorships will fund thousands of meals for people in the New York area who are unable to cook or shop for themselves. Pearl says God’s Love We Deliver will provide about 2.6 million meals this year to more than 10,000 people.
“This concert provides us with resources to actually meet a lot of the needs of the people who we are serving,” Pearl said. “It also helps more people know about us. And we are really committed to finding everybody who needs God’s Love.”
During the pandemic, that need grew quickly. Within days, requests for God’s Love We Deliver’s help grew 30%, which the group managed with volunteers working from home for the first time and their kitchens manned at half capacity so they could follow the city’s rules for social distancing. “We are very proud that we have been able to do these things because this was so unpredictable,” Pearl said. “Very early in the pandemic, we delivered to everybody two weeks’ worth of shelf-stable food so that if we had to somehow stop working, people would still have food. Happily, we never had to stop.”
Greg Williamson, co-executive producer of Love Rocks NYC, said there are plenty of ways charities can fundraise, but concerts are something special. “When you have a gala, people show up for the charity,” he said. “When you have a concert, you could have 500 or 1000 people that come for God’s Love and then you could have another 2,500 people that come who don’t know the charity. They’re showing up because of Robert Plant or Dave Matthews, or Sheryl Crow or Mavis Staples.”
Many of those people, Williamson said, then become future God’s Love volunteers or donors after learning about the charity’s work. God's Love leaders count themselves lucky that their Love Rocks benefit was one of the last indoor benefits before the COVID-19 lockdowns and one of the first major in-person indoor benefits as pandemic restrictions relax.
Etheridge said she has been impressed with God’s Love’s work for years. “I remember, back when it started during the AIDS epidemic,” she said. “Providing that sort of resource, that nutrition for people who couldn’t get it, that’s just God’s Love. Then when the pandemic hit, to offer it to more people who definitely shouldn’t go out, I mean, that’s just the very definition of love.”
Etheridge’s busy touring schedule has previously prevented her from appearing at Love Rocks. But because the COVID-19 pandemic has scaled back many artists’ tours, she was available for this year’s show before starting her 2022 tour next week. And she jumped at the chance to do it.
“There’s all the good stuff that will come from it, but, oh my goodness, this lineup!” Etheridge said. “The people that are going to be there are just some good friends and then some folks I’ve never met before that I’m looking forward to meeting. Believe it or not, I haven’t met Keith Richards.”
And after two years of limited touring, Etheridge says she’s excited about playing with musicians outside of her usual band. “Our last little tour was so very isolated and we were all nervous,” she said. “We didn’t want to catch anything and cancel the tour, so we were all in our little bubbles. This will be a wonderful experience.”
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