When a member of a community suffers from a disease like cancer, the greatest support they can find is often within that same community.
In an attempt to raise money to help cancer patients in need, the Houserville United Methodist Church of Hope kicked off Benefeast, an event centered around music, art and food.
“We’re coming together to start a fund,” said Pastor Renee Ford, “and build it up to help local people.”
The vision of the church is to transform the community through arts and worship, she said. The hope is that Benefeast will become an annual event and will continue to grow throughout the years.
“We had some younger members of the church, people in their 40s and 50s as well as older, get diagnosed with cancer,” Ford said. “We wanted to respond to their needs.”
The event was envisioned by church sound technician and drummer, Eric “Z” Rozzi. Rozzi said he held a series of cafes in the Pittsburgh area in the 90s with similar goals but on a smaller scale
“I had this idea,” he said, “and a way to kickstart it and make it something that’s bigger than all of us.
“In the last five years, I’ve seen what seems like 30 new banks start up in this area, so I know the money is here. But I still see people that really struggle.”
“It’s about finding ways to make everyone benefit.”
Rozzi said he came up with the idea for Benefeast in April, but only had 63 days to put it together once he got approval. “Next year will be a smoother process.”
Rozzi also wanted to keep the focus entirely local — local original music, food and art.
“A lot of the artists we have here have never sold their art at an event before,” he said. “For the bands playing tomorrow, the caveat was, you can play one cover song per set. The rest has to be original.”
Local artist Larry B. Bradfield, 34, admitted he’s never tried selling his work before.
“I always made it for fun or for gifts,” he said. “This is my first chance to sell art, and I can also raise money for charity.”
Profits for artwork sold would be split evenly between the artist and the charity, Ford said.
Bradfield works in both wood and paint. He described his work as a “pretty bold graphic style” with three-tone paintings. “I like making art fast,” he said. “I like taking an idea and conceptualizing it and have it manifest in front of me in the shortest amount of time and the fewest amount of steps.”
He said he was contacted early by Rozzi and absolutely wanted to be part of the event.
“This means something to me as well,” Bradfield said. “I have a friend in the community that does have cancer who I’ve been in support of for a number of years. I think she’ll appreciate me being a part of this.”
Once the money is collected, it will be kept in the church treasury and distributed based on nominations, Ford said. People in the community will nominate those they think are most in need regardless of income. She also encourages businesses to donate their services as well, such as a landscaping company helping to mow someone’s lawn.
Friday’s leg of Benefeast focused on worship, she said, with performances by their own church group as well as other worship teams.
Benefeast continues Saturday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., with a different band playing every hour. The event closes with a fire hula hoop show by Alexa St. Martin and Gabrielle Reese.
“It’s very expressive and freeing, and it’s my comfort zone,” St. Martin said of her show. “When I’m in my hula hoop, I’m never bored, never lonely, never awkward. It’s like my partner and my safe circle, quite literally.”