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West County: Maryland Bluegrass jams for Fisher House

West County: Maryland Bluegrass jams for Fisher House
Solo musicians jam during the Marathon Bluegrass Jam Maryland in February 2016 at American Legion Post 276 in Severn. This year's jam, benefiting Fisher House Foundation, is scheduled for Feb. 24. (Sharon P Schultz / Correspondent)

With so many members of the armed services located in West County, many people are familiar with Fisher House Foundation, a nonprofit hosting a national network of “comfort homes” that provide safe lodging for the families of sick or injured fallen heroes while their loved ones receive medical treatment.

The homes are built at U.S. military bases and veterans hospitals around the world. Families are given private bedrooms and bath, with access to communal areas in the home, and there is never a fee for their stay. Hero Miles, a program managed by Fisher House, makes use of donated frequent flier miles to provide free transportation for the military families as well.

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When the benefits due families of two fallen soldiers fell through the cracks during a recent government shut-down, it was Fisher House Foundation that stepped up and offered to cover funeral expenses for the families. The foundation operates primarily on donations. Enter Neil Hamrick and Marathon Bluegrass Jam Maryland.

“Fisher House is ‘a home away from home’ for families of patients receiving medical care at major military and VA medical centers,” said Hamrick, a local bluegrass musician. “Typically, the houses are 5,000 to 16,800 square foot homes donated by the Fisher House Foundation. Each house is designed to provide 8 to 21 suites so the houses can accommodate 16 to 42 family members.”

The 9th annual Marathon Bluegrass Jam Maryland, set for Feb. 24 at the Howard L. Turner American Legion Post #276, at 8068 Quarterfield Road in Severn is the West County flagship when it comes to raising money for the Fisher House Foundation. Hamrick’s band, C&O Express, will jam for this cause close to his heart.

The concert is noon until midnight.

Thanks to Hamrick and his team of volunteers, the fundraiser has come a long way from the first Bluegrass Jam for Fisher House.

“The first year was put together quickly and sort of on a whim,” Hamrick said. “We found a small venue, hoped we would get a few people to attend, and were hoping to raise something like $1500.

“We started at noon. By 1 p.m., it was standing room only and stayed that way all day. ... Once the dust settled and we tallied everything up, we ended up raising over $8,000. We were all shocked and amazed by what this event had produce.”

The fundraiser quickly outgrew its initial venue. The second, and subsequent years, saw the event hosted by the larger American Legion Post 276 in Severn with remarkable success. Last year, $58,500 was raised for Fisher House, a long way from that initial $1,500. This year’s goal is $60,000. Marathon Bluegrass Jam Maryland has donated over $260,000 to Fisher House Foundation.

“We’ve gone from an event we put together on a whim to one of the biggest and best one-day bluegrass event in the region,” Hamrick said.

The jam draws people from outside the state including Pennsylvania, Virginia and Delaware.

Marathon Bluegrass Jam Maryland promises a full of food and music. The festivities begin just prior to noon with the Presentation of Colors and the Pledge of Allegiance. Music starts at noon with a combination of bands and open jam sessions for musicians.

In addition to Bluegrass, there will be a prize wheel, silent auction and raffles. The American Legion will offer food and cold drinks for purchase. Admission is free.

“It still blows me away that we can raise this kind of money,” said Hamrick. “The generosity of the bluegrass community is amazing.”

Join the Drum Circle

The Anne Arundel County Public Library presents a Drum Circle Facilitation at 2 p.m. at the Maryland City at Russet Library, 3501 Russett Commons in Laurel, saluting Black History Month. Join the celebration of drumming using organized rhythms to enhance drumming and listening skills.

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Drums are provided for all participants and all ages are welcome. This event is sponsored by the Performing Arts Center for African Cultures. For more information, go to www.aacpl.net/location/marylandcity.

Black History Month art show, concert

Annapolis Area Christian School holds its Second Annual Black History Month Art Show and Concert Feb. 24 at the Severn Upper School Campus, 109 Burns Crossing Road in Severn. The art show runs 6–7 p.m., followed by a Black History Month Celebratory Concert.

The art work displayed is available for purchase. For more information, call 410-846-3507.

Philadelphia Flower Show

The Meade Area Garden Club is sponsoring the annual bus trip to the Philadelphia Flower Show March 5. This year’s theme is Wonders of Water which includes water displays in the garden and the usual displays of award-winning plants and floral designs. The bus leaves Jessup Community Hall, 2920 Jessup Road in at 8:45 a.m. and returns to said location at 6 p.m.

Cost is $65 for Meade Area Garden Club members and $70 for non-members. Reservations are required. Call Beverly Durana, 410-551-2263.

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