After a recent visit to the Philippines, Stephanie Reese of Bainbridge Island knew she had to help.
The well-known singer-actress was performing at a chic and chic wedding. So they didn’t need any help.
She spoke to Brother Mark Purugganan of the Holy Sacrifice Ward, who helped celebrate the wedding. He told her how many people were in desperate need of food, especially since the COVID-19 pandemic.
Reese asked him how most people were doing when it came to masks and vaccinations. He sort of laughed. âNo offense, but masks and vaccines – that’s a luxury offered to countries like yours,â she said.
These things cost money and their economy is crippled. They don’t have much anyway because their jobs are poorly paid, like maids, drivers, orderlies, etc., he added.
She said they were showing up at churches in need of food. He was told it costs $ 2 to feed a family of four for a week. It pays for the eggs and the rice. âThe more people give, the more they come forward for food,â she said.
She told Purugganan that she would help. She was full of motivation and inspiration when she returned to the United States. But then she felt that there was too much going on because it was Christmas. She was going to ask her husband to write a check.
But when she brought it up in church, she was told, âYou’re kidding. It’s Christmas. People are in the Christmas spirit.
So she decided to go ahead with her idea of ââhosting a Christmas concert to raise funds for the poor in Manila. She was only about two weeks old. âI was running like crazy,â she said.
Reese has performed in numerous fundraisers around the world, but this was her first time hosting one. She found it was a lot of work. Pianist Jordan Pietre had to learn 10 new songs “that he had never played before,” she said. But it was all worth it.
âIt was an absolute blast,â she said. “We have raised enough money to be able to provide special Christmas Eve meals that are bigger than eggs and rice.”
With nearly $ 5,100 raised, they plan to spend $ 10 per family on a meal consisting of a box of fruit cocktail, noodles, spaghetti sauce and bread. âIt sounds like very little food to us,â but for them it will be special, she said.
The concert took place at Grace Church, where she and her husband Matthew Coates married a few years ago. The church was so supportive that they knew they would be “ready to help me in my project.”
About 116 people attended, including more from Zoom locally and even more people in Manila who were helped. âThere was a whole gymnasium of people,â she said. There was a plan for the people of Manila to sing a Christmas song during the concert, but the technology wouldn’t allow it. However, as a backup, a video of them singing was shown instead.
Some of her church friends also performed at the concert, as well as students she teaches singing to.
The concert had a holiday theme with songs like “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” and a Christmas Medley Singalong, but it also featured songs like “Hallelujah” and “Ave Maria”, as well as “Bridge Over Troubled Water” and a Oldies Medley.
The name of the concert was Gift of Giving, and each artist performed something related to gifts, things like culture, love, and hope. Performing the Gift of Friendship was another well-known singer, David Povin, a soul, jazz, gospel and rhythm and blues artist.
âEveryone applauded because my husband didn’t know about it,â Reese said of the surprise to have their best friend there.
Reese and Povin are normally in Germany this time of year, performing at a major UNICEF concert that features Broadway artists in London. âBut they canceled our tour. Everything was closed in Germany.
Reese said she has done a “ton” of concerts around the world for bands like the United Nations, World Vision and Operation Smile.
She said she really enjoyed performing as she hadn’t been on stage for a year and a half.
âThis was my first time performing liveâ¦ I couldn’t believe how much I missed it,â she said. She also gave a solo concert at Carnegie Hall with proceeds donated to the Philippines. She sang because she believed in the cause, but didn’t produce it herself.
So she was a little afraid to give her concert at Grace Church. âTo be honest I was a little intimidated,â she said.
But with the help of many church and island volunteers, they were successful.
Reese said when she performed for a charity it wasn’t as satisfying.
âIt’s real to see the direct effect of what you’ve created,â she said. âYou don’t have the feeling unless you’re there to do the job. ”
She said she missed that direct connection and didn’t even know it.
Reese went to Indiana University for classical vocals, but changed to the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music because she wanted to do more acting. She ended up dropping out of school prematurely to star in “Miss Saigon” in Germany. She had planned to go back to college, but got another role in “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” then “The King and Me” in London and has never looked back.
Her mother and grandmother are from the Philippines and it is through them that she learned family values ââand sacrifice. She’s been there so many times that she also has a producer and manager and a career in Asia.
But since COVID, she has been limited in her movements. So she got very involved in her church and Arts and Humanities Bainbridge.
âIt’s better than living in a suitcase,â she said.
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