Carroll County Times
Carroll County

Westminster sisters use music to help community

Eleven-year-old Carrie Geisler and her sister, 15-year-old Jessica Geisler, of Westminster, are using their love of music to help others. The siblings are holding a Hope for the Hungry concert from 6 to 8 p.m. May 30.

The event, featuring country, pop and classical music, will take place in the fellowship hall at St. Paul's United Church of Christ in Westminster.


There is no charge to attend, but Carrie and Jessica are asking those who come to bring nonperishable food items or a monetary donation.

The food and money that is collected will go to Carroll County Food Sunday, a nonprofit that helps feed those in need in the county.


The girls have been playing music since second grade, their mother, Judy Geisler, said.

Though both love music, they enjoy performing different styles — Carrie likes to sing and play country songs on her guitar, while Jessica plays the violin and enjoys classical tunes.

"They've always been into music," Judy said. "Part of music is supposed to be the gift of giving back. That's what we believe and this is their way of giving back."

This is not the first time the sisters have used their music to help others. In January 2014, they held a night of music at Birdie's Cafe in Westminster.

All the money collected at that event was donated to Lazarus Church, in Lineboro, to help rebuild it after a fire. The girls applied for an action grant from Thrivent Financial and received $500 toward last year's benefit, raising their total to over $2,000 in funds donated to the church.

Thrivent Financial is a Fortune 500 financial services not-for-profit membership organization that offers grant opportunities to volunteers in the community.

"The action grant is meant to engage a [volunteer] team in the community," Judy said.

Carrie and Jessica said it took them about a month or two to decide which charity to donate the funds from their concert to this year.


"There is always going to be someone in the world that needs help, but we chose Carroll County Food Sunday," Carrie said. "I know they do a lot for others."

The girls' personal connection to the organization inspired their choice.

"My grandfather's been involved with Carroll County Food Sunday for a really long time so I've known about it," Jessica said of Ed Leister, executive director of Carroll County Food Sunday. "They help kids who might not have much food at home."

Papa Ed, as his grandchildren call him, said he is very happy about what Jessica and Carrie are doing.

"It makes me feel extremely proud, I'll tell you that," Leister said. "A lot of our people are the older citizens in the county. I don't know how our seniors live on the Social Security checks they get. And we have a lot of families with children, too [who benefit from Carroll County Food Sunday]."

Leister said Carroll County Food Sunday is currently serving about 425 needy families weekly, but the number will grow after school closes for the summer.


"Many children get lunch and even breakfast through school programs, but when school closes those single moms and families have to feed three meals a day to their children again," Leister said. "August is our biggest month. I think that's because families are buying back-to-school supplies, spending their money there, but they still have to feed the family.

Carrie said doing musical benefits comes naturally to her.

"I love to sing and I love to play my guitar," Carrie, a sixth-grader at West Middle School, said. "It's exciting and it feels good to know you are doing what you love and helping other people through [music]."

Jessica said she feels the same way.

"I really enjoy playing my violin and a lot of the time I don't get to do solo performances," the Westminster High School freshman said. "When I do [get to do a solo] it is typically at churches. Not many violinists get out there and try to help the community, but I wanted to do this."

In addition to putting on benefit concerts, the girls have used their music to help the community in other ways.


Judy said both girls bring their friends to sing Christmas carols annually for the residents of the retirement community Homewood at Plum Creek, in Hanover, Pa.

"This past Christmas was the third year we've done it," Judy said. "Carrie played the guitar and we sang Christmas carols. This year we got a $250 action grant from Thrivent and used it to make up little bags of soap and tissues and other necessary items. We took a calculator to the mall to figure out how we could fill these bags in the most inexpensive way. We purchased pretty little pins for the ladies and handkerchiefs for the guys and added some salty snacks — little things to bring some holiday cheer to them."

Carrie said she hopes to one day have a career in music. She said she's even written one song about counting license plates on the way to vacation.

"I performed the song I wrote at Westminster's Got Talent on Feb. 28 of this year at the Carroll Arts Center and I came in second place," she said.

Jessica said she hopes to have a career as a school music teacher but she also wants to teach private lessons and continue to play with an orchestra, as she does at her high school now.

"I do get nervous but I still enjoy performing, especially afterward when I find out people really enjoyed my music," Jessica said. "I love how there can be a wide variety of sounds and tones with a violin. The G and D strings have rich warm tones and the A and E strings have higher, softer sounds. There are a lot of different styles with classical music, all unique. Some are so complex and beautiful. Some are darker and there are times when it is very pretty."


Jessica said at the upcoming two-hour show, she will be performing 30 to 40 minutes of music during breaks in Carrie's sets. Jessica will be playing classical music on her violin; Carrie will be playing the guitar and singing country and pop tunes.

"I love playing the guitar as much as I do singing," Carrie said. "They go hand in hand for me. I like how there's so many different types of songs in country music that you can recreate in your own style."

Judy said she and her daughters received two action grants from Thrivent Financial — totaling $500 — for this year's benefit, as well.

$250 of the money is allocated for advertising the concert so they've made up many flyers and are advertising in the local papers and on electronic calendars, Judy said.

They said they plan to spend the remaining $250 on boxes of cereal.

"I told them to ask for sugar-coated cereal," Leister said. "The reason is that the only cereals we buy at [Carroll County] Food Sunday are toasted oats, corn flakes or Cheerios because they are the cheapest to buy. We pack the bags of food for people that come in and we hold the donated sugar-coated cereals for families with children."


Soups, sandwiches and other foods will be available for purchase at the concert, with food sale proceeds going to St. Paul's United Church of Christ, the church hosting their concert.

The sisters and their mom said they hope they have a large turnout at the event, and receive enough donations to pack a truck for Carroll County Food Sunday.

Carroll County Daily Headlines

Carroll County Daily Headlines


Get the day's top news and sports headlines.

"It feels wonderful that they are willing to give of their time and talents to help others," Judy said of her daughters. "It's important to give back."

If you go:

What: Hope for the Hungry benefit concert

When: 6 to 8 p.m. May 30


Where: St. Paul's United Church of Christ, 17 Bond St., Westminster

Cost: There is no cost to attend but contributions of nonperishable food items and monetary donations are being accepted for Carroll County Food Sunday

For more information: Contact Judy Geisler at 410-876-5304 or via email at