CARBONDALE — A little goodwill can go a long way. Or, in the case of Carbondale Closed Mic Night, a very long way.
Around the region, a growing number of venues and entertainers are putting together virtual events to entertain those of us stuck at home, and to raise money for those in the entertainment industry currently in a lurch.
Originally billed as the Tres Hombres Open Mic Night, Carbondale Closed Mic started in response to restrictions placed on bars and restaurants in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. In March, Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker ordered all nonessential businesses closed, save for curbside pick-up, to try and keep the spread of the virus to a minimum.
In this new format, musicians upload videos of themselves playing songs every Tuesday and then they're reposted on the Carbondale Closed Mic Night Facebook page. A different nonprofit or charitable group is chosen each week and artists encourage viewers to donate.
In a Facebook Post on Sunday, the Closed Mic Night page announced that in support of the weekly event, an anonymous person wrote a $10,000 check to Carbondale’s Good Samaritan House — a homeless shelter and food pantry in Carbondale. This brought that week’s total donations up to more than $11,000 and the group’s total donations for all weeks to more than $18,000.
Nathan Graham is one of the chief organizers alongside his partner, Jen Haselhorst. Graham said Closed Mic Night supported Good Sams on March 30, but no one got the check until just recently — Patty Mullen, Good Samaritan House’s executive director said she has been working from home because of COVID-19 and hasn’t always gotten mail right away.
“I was elated. I dropped the check and got on the phone,” Mullen said.
“We got a 10,000 check from your guys’ thing, thanks so much,” Graham recalled the text message he received from Mullen.
Graham said he wasn’t quick to take credit because the check was written after the March 30 event. But he said Mullen assured them it was a direct result of Closed Mic Night’s fundraising.
Though always grateful for support, this check came at a particularly good moment for the charitable group. On April 3, the Good Samaritan House shared a Facebook post from the Neighborhood Co-op that its annual “Feed Your Neighbor 5K” had to be canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic — proceeds from this were supposed to go to Good Sams. Mullen told The Southern that a second fundraiser had to be postponed, as well. She said both fundraisers usually net $10,000 together.
“So this donation is going to cover up our budget loss,” Mullen said.
Graham said Closed Mic Night has, in a way, been more successful than the in-person version. Just before the shutdown in March, the weekly Tuesday night event started passing the hat for local charitable groups.
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“We were averaging about $50 a week,” Graham said.
Now that average is up to about $1,000 a week, with one very notable aberration. When asked how to keep this momentum going when the bars are opened again, Graham said there have been a few ideas floated but nothing solid yet. Graham said one of the most tangible ideas he and others had was to find a way to create a revolving fund to support musicians who are in need of emergency support. But nothing has been finalized.
When asked about his feelings about both the continued success of the closed mic night and the generous, anonymous donor Graham didn’t mince words.
“I’m just as surprised as anyone,” he said.
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