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Donkey series buys local food for needy

Last weekend marked the end of a month-long fundraiser organized by Donkey Coffee and Espresso and Rural Action to help provide fresh, local food to those in need.

The first edition of the fundraiser hosted live performances by an array of eclectic artists to help contribute to the cause every Friday and Saturday of January at Donkey Coffee, 17 W. Washington St.

Rural Action used the money to purchase food from local farmers at the Chesterhill Produce Auction, which in turn was donated to neighboring food pantries, said Matt Moore, AmeriCorps member with Rural Action.

“(Food pantries) are getting really healthy food that they don’t always see on the shelves,” Moore said. “It’s not being bought second-hand from a store, so it’s also supporting the local farmers. It helps everyone out.”

Donkey Coffee collected a $3 cover fee as well as donations during the performances, Moore said.

“Most of our neighbors have been giving more than $3,” Moore said. “It was well supported. Two hours of great music is well-worth $3.”

Kate Suekoff, a senior studying voice performance, was one artist who performed at Donkey Coffee last month. She said the venue was more crowded than usual and that people were eager to make donations.

“When you say there’s a cover charge (people) usually say ‘I don’t know if I can make it’,” Suekoff said. “But if you say it’s going (towards) a good cause, they’re more willing to show up. More people came because of that.”

Moore said the idea for the month-long concert series came about when he met with Troy Gregorino, booking manager for Donkey Coffee, last fall.

Instead of collecting donations for one night at a time like in the past, Gregorino said the series would be more successful in drawing people in and highlighting an important cause.

“I got to thinking of ways I could be more help and the idea came about,” Gregorino said. “I’ve been heartened by the community response and encouraged to apply this to other local causes down the road.”

As a result of the series’ success, Gregorino said he wants to try to implement other similar fundraising efforts on a quarterly basis.

“None of this would’ve been possible without the kindness of artists, community and students who all have combined forces,” Gregorino said. “Athens is notorious for benefit shows and this experiment is just an approach to take a good thing and make it better.”

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