On Sunday, Ithaca College students will sponsor the Ithaca Poverty Benefit Concert. The event, which will take place from 1 to 6 p.m. in the central pavilion on The Commons, will donate all proceeds to a local family and other local poverty organizations, according to senior Christian deBrigard, a coordinator for the event.
The living wage in Tompkins County recently increased 7 percent to $9.83 per hour for a 40-hour workweek, $24,500 annually, according to the 2007 Alternatives Federal Credit Union Living Wage Study released Friday. But according to Pete Meyers, coordinator of the Tompkins County Workers’ Center, poverty is still a significant issue in the county.
“The 2000 census had 17.6 percent of the county living in poverty,” he said. “We believe the poverty figures are grossly underestimated. We estimate that closer to 25 percent of the county is in poverty.”
The idea for the concert came from a challenge to the Ithaca Achievement Program (IAP) scholars, said Deb Mohlenhoff, coordinator for community service leadership development at the Center for Student Leadership and Involvement. IAP is a program offered to African American, Latino American, Native American and Asian American (ALANA) students who are focused on personal and academic success, and are dedicated to community service, said John Rawlins, assistant director of the IAP program.
“We discussed the issue of poverty and put it out to the students,” Mohlenhoff said. “They have certainly taken that and ran with it. They have gone above and beyond.”
Tompkins County resident Sarah Carthan, who will receive part of the concert’s proceeds, remembers a time when she was supporting herself and her six grandchildren on $35 a week.
“Sometimes [the paycheck] was $100,” she said. “Maybe it was $50. I couldn’t take care of the kids and pay the bills, so the bills got behind.”
In 2002, Carthan decided to start working toward buying a handicap accessible house to accommodate one of her grandchildren, Quandale, who is paraplegic. She started working with special programs, found a nurse for Quandale and has paid down her debt to less than $5,000, but has not saved enough money to buy the home.
DeBrigard, also an IAP scholar, said after he proposed the event, he was surprised by how many responses he got from people who wanted to be involved.
“This idea snowballed throughout the year and has now become a huge event,” he said. “Our goal is not only to raise awareness of the issue of poverty in the Ithaca area but also hopefully, in a small way, make a financial impact for the betterment of people that need help.”
IAP students received support from numerous organizations on campus, specifically Students for Economic Equality and Generation Rising, deBrigard said.
Six local bands will play at the event, deBrigard said, including his own band, Amplication, In-n-Out Burger, Mubsi, Adam Day, Jimkata and Ayurveda.
Russ Fridell, manager of Jimkata who is scheduled to play at 4 p.m., said his band is excited to be part of the event.
“The poverty situation, in general, is something that this country is faced with, and that we need to be aware of,” he said. “You have the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer.”
A canned food, hygiene product and clothing drive will also be part of the event. Collections will be donated to United Way of Tompkins County to benefit the local area, said junior Melanie Serrou, a member of Students for Economic Equality and an intern at the Tompkins County Workers’ Center.
“It’s a way for people not only in the community and in the schools separately, but together to be connected on an event, for the same cause and reason, and learn about the things together,” she said.
DeBrigard said he hopes the event will help enlighten people about the issue of poverty.
“I really want to get both people that are in poverty and [those who] want to learn about poverty to come to this event,” he said.
Carthan hopes donations from the event will help her come closer to her goal of owning a home.
“We’re not looking for something fabulous,” she said. “We’re just looking for something to call a home. Not a house, a home. We’re gonna have space one day. We’re gonna live in the country. The kids are gonna be able to run and play and be free and enjoy life.”