Published September 14, 2012
Gospel Choir to help raise funds for SideWalkMOLLY GILMORE
Seattles Total Experience Gospel Choir has circled the globe spreading joy and raising funds with song. On Sunday, the renowned community choir will sing in Olympia, raising voices and funds for the homeless advocacy center SideWalk.The choir recently returned from a Southern tour revisiting states hit hard by Hurricane Katrina seven years ago.Ever since Hurricane Katrina, our mission has been hurricane relief work, said Pastor Patrinell Pat Wright, who directs the choir. We were there two days ahead of Isaac.It was a near miss, Wright said. We didnt know it was coming in because we were so busy. We sing a lot when were in those places to bring joy to the people.The SideWalk benefit concert also will be a joyful occasion, said Emma Margraf, SideWalks community outreach coordinator.This concert is really a celebration of our first year, Margraf said. A couple of clients who are real success stories are going to be speaking before the concert starts.The volunteer-operated program has just three paid part-time staff members. Forty-five regular volunteers work directly with 135 homeless clients, helping them fill out forms, apply for jobs and whatever else is needed. Another 20-30 volunteers mow, paint, complete construction projects and more.Our mission is to end homelessness, Margraf said. The goal for the clients is to get them into homes that really work for them. Sometimes that means the advocates have to help them with a lot of other issues.Ive been saying its nice that were going to have the Total Experience Gospel Choir, because it gives us a chance to celebrate the total experience of being at SideWalk. We deal with everything under the sun with clients.The choir also is prepared to do whatever it takes, Wright said. We never know what were going to sing till we actually walk into the venue and I get a chance to talk to some of the people before we start, and then it pops into my head what we should sing, she said.That is likely to include not only traditional African American gospel, Wright said, but jazz, blues and even the occasional show tune. (The choir has for 15 years been part of Black Nativity, a Langston Hughes play performed in Seattle each holiday season.)Were just going to do whatever the atmosphere calls for when we get there, she said. Were going to sing music that we hope will inspire people to donate a little bit more than they had planned to.