The History of the EACEF

On May 10th 2012 Gerry Shiffman introduced Chris Skellenger to the Empire Area Community Center. Chris is a local area horticulturist, musician and humanitarian who founded Buckets of Rain.  Buckets of Rain was formed in 2006 pioneering a gravity fed drip irrigation system to help impoverished communities to feed themselves in Africa and South America.  Since 2012 this group’s attention turned stateside by perfecting urban gardening in struggling communities of Michigan, specifically in Detroit and Highland Park.  Chris also had a vision to have a means of delivering aid to people in our local community that had fallen upon hard times, through no fault of their own, while at the same time, preserving their right to maintain their dignity and privacy.

Chris, through Buckets of Rain, developed the concept of the Emergency Fund, but they needed a vehicle to support and administer this program. Chris presented his vision to EACC and asked them to be that vehicle. The Empire Area Community Center agreed to administer the Emergency Fund. Gerry Shiffman became the Emergency Fund Chairperson, and committed his full support to developing and implementing the program. Karen Baja and Jim Sills joined Gerry as committee members.

The first concert had already been held on April 29th 2012 in Empire at the Village Inn. This first concert generated $445 in donations. A checking account was opened on August 27th 2012 with the $445 from this first concert and $1,503.65 from the May, June, and July concerts.

Since that first year, a minimum of eleven concerts have been held each year. Two particularly memorable concerts were held in 2013. One was held on May 26th on Front Street outside the Empire Town Hall. This concert was called Pickin On Joah. This concert was held in memory of a loved longtime resident, Joah Dye. $3019 in donations were generated that day. A second all day concert was held at Johnson Park in Empire on June 23rd. This concert, called The Summer Solstice Celebration of Music and Community, was held in memory of cherished music sound engineer, Jan Waling. This free event featured 29 area musicians who donated their time and talent to support this fundraising effort. The donations collected at this concert totaled $6540.

The donations from these monthly concerts along with the generous donations from people who just wanted to contribute have made the vision of a few a reality for many.

From 2012 to 2015, many wonderful musicians, concert venue owners, concert producers, graphic designers, visionaries, and community volunteers have donated countless hours to the success of this Emergency Fund and the Fund raising efforts. No one person has donated more of his time and efforts more generously and effectively than Gerry Shiffman. Gerry resigned from his position as chairperson of the Empire Area Emergency Fund on December 20th 2015.

On January 14th 2016 Lanny Sterling and Norm Wheeler were appointed as the Emergency Fund Raising Event coordinators and Cindy Blakeslee was appointed as the new Emergency Fund chairperson. Jim Sills and David Taghon joined Cindy as Emergency Fund committee members. Eleven successful concerts were performed in 2016 bringing in additional dollars to help people in our community. Under the coordination of Inie Hacker, the 2016 Annual Auction brought in a total of $4,100 in auction sales.

In October of 2017, Pete Woessner accepted the position of  Emergency Fund chairperson.  Norm Wheeler is still securing the venues and artists for our annual Emergency Fund concerts.  A collective member effort organized an expanded silent auction component to complement the live auction by local auctioneer Dave Taghon for the 2017  Annual Auction, set another record taking in $5,396 for the Emergency Fund.

In February 2018 March Dye became the liaison between Norm Wheeler, Jack Gyr and EACC. Jim Sills and Taylor Moore volunteered to help March get posters for concert events hung each month.  Emergency Fund concerts continued each month. Another $17,315.75 was brought into the Emergency Fund through private and concert donations. Under the leadership of Inie Hacker, the Annual Auction was another success resulting in $4.693.00 in additional revenue.

2019 had no personnel changes, but we were only able to host seven concerts because of winter storms and one summer storm. Despite only having seven concerts, we were still able to obtain $4,250.99 from concert donations. Another successful auction was held this year under the leadership of Karen Baja bringing in an additional $4923.00 in sales. Private donations from individuals or business amounted to $8,130.05 making 2019 another very successful year.

2020 was the year of the Covid-19. Our general meetings were canceled. We did have one meeting via zoom. We had no EACC sponsored activities at all. Our income was only $145.64 and our expenses amounted to $1287.78, but despite this fact, we were still able to pay it forward to Little Traverse Inn and The Empire Village Inn by giving them each a donation for their charity events to assist front line workers and people in need of a meal during this trying time. There were no administration changes in this year. We look forward to returning to normal in 2021.

EACC and the Emergency Fund are grateful to all who are making this possible and especially grateful to the creators and sponsors of this fund, Buckets of Rain, and EACC will continue to administer the Empire Area Community Emergency Fund.

The Emergency Fund was featured in the local Newspaper and TV in January, 2018 !!