Bands benefit Butler County foodbank with bar show proceeds

Music is known to soothe the soul and reduce stress, but some local musicians are making music feed the hungry.

Billy Two Shoes, a band that plays in Butler County and Columbus, donates all of its income — from gig fees to tips and merchandise sales — to Fairfield-based Shared Harvest Foodbank. The band has always helped a charity, and it has focused on Butler County’s food bank that supports five Southwest Ohio and Miami Valley area counties for the past five or six years, said member Josh Lawson.

“It’s bigger than the music,” said Lawson, a Fairfield resident who works in Oxford. “Anything we do, we try to keep the money local.”

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There are more than 37 million Americans, including 11 million children, who are food insecure, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. In Ohio, nearly 1.7 million people (500,000 of whom are children) struggle with hunger, according to Feeding America, which has a network of 200 food banks that includes Shared Harvest in Fairfield.

Food insecurity can strike nearly anyone, as 78 percent of workers live paycheck to paycheck.

Billy Two Shoes formed about 11 years ago, and its longstanding charitable focus shifted from the Appalachia area to their backyard.

“We just built a relationship with Shared Harvest because they have the buying power, they can turn just $1 into eight meals for folks,” said Lawson, a New Miami High School graduate.

The band plays mostly at bars or public houses or public house — often at North 2nd Tap and Bottle, where it will host its "Sipps Lane" album release show on Friday. Since some members live in Columbus, the group also plays around the capital city.

Billy Two Shoes isn’t the only band that supports Shared Harvest. Hamilton-based Kevin and Barb and The Mark Joshua Band have supported the foodbank. They donate funds at least once per year to Shared Harvest, about which Kevin Loving of Kevin and Barb said, “It’s the least we can do.”

“We’re all here on this planet sharing everything, and some folks get a little more and some folks get a little less,” said Loving, who plays with Barb Berne at flea markets, senior care facilities, events and festivals.

“If those of us who are able to help the folks that need some help, we ought to do it. It’s just the right thing to do.”

Usually, the duo picks a date close to Christmas, when people are feeling their most generous, to donate to the food bank, which he said he has supported long before playing music full-time.

Mark Joshua and his band, with musical acts Cera and Stratoscope, put on a holiday concert fundraiser in December at ArtSpace in downtown Hamilton. All donations and proceeds supported Shared Harvest.

“It’s the right thing to do, especially during the holidays,” Joshua said. “I feel very blessed to be in a position where I can do what I like, and using my platform to do good has always felt right to me.”

Shared Harvest supports Butler, Warren, Preble, Miami and Darke counties, where nearly 100,000 people are considered food insecure.

“I am always amazed when people harness the power of their talents to improve the lives of others,” said Shared Harvest Executive Director Terry Perdue. “We often wonder, ‘Who am I to make a difference?’ When in fact we are uniquely positioned to be the solution to someone’s problem.”

The bands have highlighted Shared Harvest’s mission, which supports more than 90 food pantries, soup kitchens, shelters and various non-profits and serves more than 3,500 children through its backpack program.

“Each of them has brought awareness of our cause to audiences that we have not previously been able to reach,” Perdue said. “Let their example remind us that we all can make a difference in our own way.”

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