Many people now understand that politics alone will never solve the woes of the community. The aftermath of Hurricane Sandy is a perfect example of the bureaucratic “slow hand” reactions that people are incensed about when it comes to the big, rusty wheel of our federal, state and local government. But throughout these trying times, others have decided to abandon the waiting room policies and make their own difference as fast as they possibly can.

New Jersey residents Greg and Karen Dixon started Helping Hands Of New Jersey as a way to assist NJ families in rebuilding their homes. Families that are unable to go it alone in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.

These are regular, everyday folks that have jobs and families and responsibilities. But somehow, through the rigors of daily life, they’ve figured out how to move ahead and show the community that even though the leading news outlets have moved on to Kim Kardashian’s pregnancy fashion faux pas and Dennis Rodman’s diplomatic calamity, New Jersey residents still struggle to put lives and homes back together.

Just to let you know, many outside of the area actually think that things are back to normal. I recently spoke with a music industry professional who told me about a conversation he had with a major record label executive in New York City. The label guy was under the impression that everything was good to go and didn’t understand why he was being asked to help with ongoing contributions and benefits.

I spoke to Greg and Karen recently, and the first thing that hit me was this. Here is this couple with nonexistent political influence, utilizing their own resources, and they’re making a difference every day through their own ingenuity and skills. It got me thinking that maybe if everyone reacted this way, we could unquestionably make a difference and get things back to normal in a much faster time frame. The forward motion example that the Dixons are demonstrating may just be the shot in the arm that will carry the movement of help to each and every concerned citizen ready to step up and get this fixed.

As Greg states, “Our mission is to supply aid in any way we can to the families affected by this tragedy. We are completely self-supported and at this point have not received any federal or state relief money. Nor have we applied for any grants. All monetary donations are used to purchase building materials while labor and services are donated and supplemented with volunteering. The organization also supplies NJ shelters with food, clothing, personal hygiene products, and other items. The group also conducts toy drives, collects home furniture, assists in animal rescue missions, and other recovery-related tasks. Helping Hands Of New Jersey is just getting started, and will continue to operate after it fulfills the needs of storm victims in future times of need.”

Just as some do not realize that these problems still exist, others are paying attention to the plea for help and have joined the fight to make a difference. Harvard University students spent their spring breaks here on the Shore, putting brains and backs into the effort with Helping Hands. These students not only learned the hands-on process of construction craft, but they took away the valuable combination of empathy for others and the uplifting experience of volunteering, two things that will stay with them throughout their lifetime.

Another interesting result of Greg and Karen’s initiative comes in the form of the University Of Buffalo. The university got word of the job being done locally, and it intrigued them enough to send a professor down to New Jersey to do a study on after effects of the storm, as well as the Dixons grassroots approach and business model.

Greg and Karen have also turned to the music community in their ongoing efforts to raise desperately needed funds. Jersey Calling, an idea born from The Clash’s famed London Calling theme, is the first in an ongoing series of concerts to bring the focus back on New Jersey and keep it there. Jersey Calling is an initiative thought up by a group of concerned residents and music industry professionals that follow in the footsteps of Greg and Karen Dixon when it comes to doing instead of talking.

The Jersey Calling event will take place on April 26 at The Strand Theater in Lakewood and will be co-sponsored by The Aquarian Weekly and New Jersey rock radio WRAT. Nu-metal artist P.O.D. will be headlining the show. With a career track record that has seen them sell over 12 million records, P.O.D. should be a solid asset in the fight to raise funds. Also on board will be Toms River band Ropetree. Comprised of vocalists/guitarists Bill and Jeff, bassist/vocalist Vinny and drummer Zulli, Ropetree are a hard-rocking four-piece in the stormy vein of Deftones and Chevelle. Other noteworthy guests will be announced on the Strand’s website.

Jersey Calling featuring P.O.D. is all ages, with doors at 6:30 p.m. Tickets start at $24 and are available for purchase through The Strand Theater’s website at strand.org or by calling 732-203-7787. To learn more about Helping Hands Of New Jersey, visit hhofnj.org. For more information about the Jersey Calling concert series, contact info@jerseycalling.com.
The Live Debate! The Prodigal Son Anthony D’Amato Returns To The Saint April 19

Anthony D’Amato is one of those musicians that knew he had to leave to get somewhere for himself. Now to be fair, there are many well-known Jersey artists that get signed and never leave their parents’ basement. But for the most part, whether it is decisions of music or life, we all take the chance in the great beyond. Anthony D’Amato chose the “Windy City” of Chicago.

Chicago just happens to be home to musical royalty. It’s famous for notable blues artists such as Muddy Waters, Junior Wells, Howlin’ Wolf and Sonny Boy Williamson. Jazz is also the ruling format and greats that caught the world on fire included Nat King Cole, Johnny Griffin and Bud Freeman.

Chicago is also stomping grounds for the rock and roll horn sound of bands such as The Buckinghams and, of course, Chicago. And when it comes to sounds of the last couple of decades, the Windy City has bred some of rock’s biggest names, as Urge Overkill, The Smashing Pumpkins and Wilco all hail from this stormy, Illinois city.

So it’s not a terrible move for a rock and roll power vocalist like D’Amato to make his name in the arena of greats. He is returning east with his band The Live Debate! to play a string of East Coast dates. D’Amato stops off tomorrow night in Philadelphia to play a show at The Twisted Tail with Arlan Feiles, Christine Martucci and Alex Radus before heading into Asbury Park to do a stint at The Saint on Friday, April 19. He wraps things up the following night, heading to Saugerties, New York for his final show at Dave’s Coffee & Wine House on April 20.

With a musical sound that sits somewhere between Jeff Buckley and Sufjan Stevens, D’Amato and Co. take the listener on a musical journey of dynamic greatness. Horns, pianos and arrangement savvy put The Live Debate! high on the ladder of imminent success. This is soulful, complex and compositionally sound storytelling. Anthony D’Amato is undoubtedly coming home with something exciting to say. For more information on The Saint show or the new sounds, head over to thelivedebate.com.

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