Primary planners of the SAMM Jam fundraiser are, from left, Moving Mountains founders Wimpy and Martha Bowden, Salvation Army Maj. Kelly English, Salvation Army Advisory Board member Charles Goodroe and Albany Herald multi-media sales rep Demetria Redding. (Staff photo: Carlton Fletcher)
ALBANY — The July 26 SAMM Jam, it would appear, has evolved around a match truly made in heaven.
The Jam, scheduled at Albany’s downtown State Theatre, will feature performances by Summit, the Evergreen Family Band and the G&S Experience. So there will be plenty for music lovers to enjoy.
But the focus of the event is to raise money and awareness of both the Albany Salvation Army chapter and Moving Mountains, a local charity dedicated to providing necessities for the area homeless, particularly homeless veterans.
In addition to a night of music, attendees will have an opportunity to take part in a silent auction featuring such prize packages as vacation trips, artwork, a guitar, a $1,000 jewelry package and any number of certificates from local merchants. Also, Moving Mountains co-founder Martha Bowden will make her own special blend of actual SAMM Jam — strawberry, apple, mango and muscadine — for the occasion.
“This comes at a critical time,” Salvation Army Maj. Kelly English said of the fundraiser. “I can’t tell you how tight funding gets here in the summer. People tend to remember us around Thanksgiving and Christmas, but our work goes on year-round. Our primary source of funding is through donations, so we hope this event puts us back in the public eye.”
English noted that, because funding had dropped so low, Saturday meals at the Second Avenue Salvation Army facility had been temporarily halted.
The SAMM (Salvation Army/Moving Mountains) Jam came about, as these things often do, quite by accident. Salvation Army Advisory Board Special Events Chairman Charles Goodroe had come to The Albany Herald to place an ad thanking sponsors and participants in a recent golf tournament. He was directed to multi-media sales rep Demetria Redding.
“When I talked to Demetria a little about the Salvation Army, she said, ‘I wish I could help more,’” Goodroe said. “I knew she was sincere; she almost had tears in her eyes. So I invited her to our next advisory board meeting. Since that meeting, she’s hit the ground running. We have some pretty heavy hitters on our board, and they all fell in love with Demetria.
“She asked if she could brainstorm on ways to help with fundraising, and of course we were excited that she wanted to. She came up with the idea of a raffle, which grew into the silent auction. From that, it grew into the benefit concert.”
Salvation Army officials knew of the work of Moving Mountains and its founders, Martha and Dwayne “Wimpy” Bowden, and they also knew of Bowden’s place in local music lore. As a member of Messendger, the Albany rock band that became a regional favorite and appeared on MTV back when the network actually played music, Bowden had earned a spot in the region’s musical pantheon.
“I definitely knew about Wimpy and Messendger,” Goodroe said. “I have their album, and I can’t tell you how many shows of theirs I went to.”
The Bowdens recruited local favorites G&S and Evergreen to play at SAMM Jam, and Wimpy Bowden said yes to a performance by his Summit Musical Group.
“It became harder and harder to keep a group together, so I decided to go solo with my music,” Bowden said. “Messendger had been a magical experience, and I knew it would probably never happen again for me. Brad’s (Sayre) doing his thing in Florida, Allen’s (Poole) in heaven singing for the King, and Jesse (Glover) has his own group.
“So what I do is when I play gigs, I just call up friends and ask them if they want to come play. If they do, great. If they don’t, I go solo.”
Multi-instrumentalist Chuck Jenkins, drummer David Knight and bassist Everitt McDaniel will join 12-string specialist Bowden for SAMM Jam.
With Redding, now a member of the Salvation Army Advisory Board, working social media and the Bowdens lining up musical talent, as well as use of the State, SAMM Jam quickly fell into place.
“I get goosebumps thinking about the way this came together,” English said.
Added Martha Bowden, “As this has taken off, it’s just grown more and more exciting. It’s become a fun project, like planning a party. But one of the coolest things is finding out that people do have caring hearts in this community.”
Tickets for SAMM Jam, which are $20, are available at Carter’s Fried Chicken on U.S. Highway 19 South in Leesburg, at Wagner’s Barbecue in East Albany and at John Ross Jewelers. Those interested in additional information or in making donations to the Salvation Army may contact English at email@example.com, while Moving Mountains information is available at firstname.lastname@example.org.