Whidbey Islanders sing for food to help those in need

Recording artist Beverly Graham will perform with her band at an annual concert benefiting Operation: Sack Lunch. - Photo courtesy of Beverly Graham
Recording artist Beverly Graham will perform with her band at an annual concert benefiting Operation: Sack Lunch.
— image credit: Photo courtesy of Beverly Graham

A South Whidbey resident who spends her time filling the bellies of those who need it most is inviting the community to spend an evening listening to music that feeds the soul.

Beverly Graham and her band are holding their annual concert benefiting Operation: Sack Lunch at the Nordstrom Recital Hall in Benaroya Hall in Seattle on Saturday, Dec. 10.

In addition to being a must-see musical experience in itself, the event will mark the launch of a new branch of the organization called Operation: Next Step. A silent auction will also be held before the concert.

Seven out of eight band members performing this year live on Whidbey Island. Graham and her eclectic band-mates create music carried by the sounds of a piano, acoustic and bass guitars, drums and vocals.

"We have a little something for everybody," Graham said.

"Our instrumentation, lyrics and feel appeals to people from 5 years old to 95 years old," she said.

The music embraces a variety of rock, folk, blues and swing. Lyrics of songs at the concert range from topics that address social issues to all out fun and playful, and every one is an original composition by Graham.

"It's a fantastic selection that she's put together for this fund," said vocalist Julie Pigott. "Her heart and soul go into these productions."

Sometimes it's hard to get people to come off the island for events, Graham said. But islanders who come to the event are showing their support for both Operation: Sack Lunch and the local performers.

And, Pigott noted, many islanders have friends and family in the Seattle area.

"It's part of our greater family-community of places to support," she said. "It also supports this fantastic program that's founded by a member of our community."

Operation: Sack Lunch started one day in 1989 when Graham packed up 30 lunches, drove downtown and handed them out on a street corner.

"We've served 1.3 million meals since then," Graham said.

The organization has cleared every barrier it's faced by because Graham and her staff stick to a basic belief.

"We are simply passionate that people have a right to eat," Graham said. "It's not a privilege that we earn."

Over the years, Operation: Sack Lunch has provided people with more than food. It has become a community builder for people from all walks of life.

One mission of the people who work and volunteer for Graham's organization is to dispel the myths of homelessness, and to tell the stories about the people they know.

"Because we know their names. We know their faces. We know how they got there," Graham said.

"Some of them are there because they've made some decisions that are unfortunate," she said. "But many of them are there because they were one paycheck away from making their house payment. They are battered women. They are children that couldn't comply."

"There are a lot of reasons for homelessness," she said.

This year's concert marks the launch of a new branch of the organization called Operation: Next Step.

The program gets individuals back into the workforce by participating in a paid 26-week internship.

The intern will spend the first three months with Operation: Sack Lunch. Then they will work for a partner organization, such as Starbucks or Costco, where they will obtain a permanent job with an equitable wage and benefits.

"We are not only taking care of immediate needs now," Graham said. "We are being part of a solution that pools people off the streets one at a time."

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