Concert makes music, money for Good Neighbors program

For two hours on May 1, folks gathered at Monte Vista Baptist Church to sing and raise money for a program that shows Blount County to be a Good Neighbor to those need.

The Lean on Me concert was held on that Sunday evening as a way to raise funds and awareness for Good Neighbors of Blount County. The non-profit is made up of volunteers from churches and the community with a mission of helping folks when life takes a bad turn for them.

Good Neighbors communications chair Joe Szmidt said the evening of music entertained and raised needed funds for the program. “It was a great concert, and we brought in $8,000, which was phenomenal,” Szmidt said.

For Szmidt and the other organizers, the comments on the love offering envelopes were encouraging. The envelopes asked the audience members to rate their opinion of the concert - ranging from “Love it” to “Like it” to “So-So.”

“All the responses on these love offering envelopes were in the ‘Love,’ and ‘Like’ area,” Szmidt said.

Szmidt said that, in terms of things to improve for next year, the concert went longer than anticipated. “We were looking for 100 minutes, and it went to 120 minutes,” he said. “That was the only negative, but the flow of the concert was such that you didn’t realize it was long until afterwards. We had the 10 groups perform and in-between Maryville Mayor Tom Taylor and Blount County Mayor Ed Mitchell gave brief snippets on Good Neighbors. We also showed three videos on the program.”

Szmidt thanked the Rev. Jerry Mantooth, pastor of Monte Vista, for giving the opening blessing, and the Rev. Jerry Russell, pastor at Fairview United Methodist Church, for asking the Love Offering blessing. “We brought more than 180 performers back on stage and sang ‘Lean on Me’ while the love offering was being collected,” he said. “The response was so positive that we are thinking about doing it again next year.”

The range of entertainment was impressive. New Providence Presbyterian Church had a traditional men’s choral ensemble while St. Paul A.M.E. Zion Church had an 11-year-old who sang a solo. “The Maryville College Voices of Praise had a rocking spiritual sound. We had chorale groups including a children group and chorale group from Middlesettlements United Methodist Church, a chorale group from St. Paul Lutheran Church, the Faithful Men of Fairview United Methodist Church, 4MV from Monte Vista Baptist, and we had a folk guitar show from Our Lady of Fatima,” Szmidt said.

On average Good Neighbors of Blount County assists more than 150 families a month to help them maintain a stable home. All the families and volunteers are from Blount County. The program has one paid employee, its director the Rev Lisa Blackwood. There are 26 volunteers who work with landlords and utility companies to help families maintain a home with lights and water. GNBC links with other support agencies and directs the neighbors (clients) to those who can meet their other needs.

For more information regarding Good Neighbors, call executive director Lisa Blackwood at 865-681-5420 or visit www.goodneighborsbc.com.

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