By Glenn Rutherford, Record Editor
Each year the St. John Center for homeless men holds one of the city’s most intriguing — and historically significant — fundraising events of the year.
It’s the annual “Raisin’ the Rent” fundraising event, and this year it will be held March 8 at the Mellwood Arts and Entertainment Center, 1860 Mellwood Ave.
The name of the event has its roots in a tradition that the well-do-do have probably never heard of, but most poor people everywhere remember well. During the dark days of the Great Depression in the Harlem section of New York, just to pick a city, neighbors and friends, upon hearing that someone close to them was having trouble paying the rent, would organize an impromptu party filled with music and food and drink and everyone would pitch in what money they could afford.
That “collection pot” as they were often labelled, helped the neighbor come up with the funds to keep a roof over the family’s head.
Though the “Raisin’ the Rent” events in Harlem are the nation’s best known, the practice was part of Louisville’s Depression history, too, in those parts of town west of Ninth St. The late civil rights leader Louis Coleman often spoke of communities in the West End of Louisville throwing get-togethers and parties to help people pay the rent during difficult times.
The point is, coming to the aid of a family — or in this case the St. John Center — by having fun and food, music and dancing, is a well-established and enjoyable way of helping out.
Tickets to this year’s event are $30.
The Mistress of Ceremonies will be Kelly K of WDJX radio; the live music will be provided by The Remedy; and auctioneer Steve Hale will preside over the event’s live auction. There will also be a silent auction that begins at 7 p.m. Hors d’oeuvres will be served from 7:30 p.m. to 8:15 p.m., and a free shuttle service will be available to take guests from the Mellwood Center’s parking lot to Event Room 3, where the “rent” will be raised.
A news release from the St. John Center said about 800 people are expected to attend the event, but Maria Price, the center’s executive director, said no one would be disappointed if the crowd were larger than that. Tickets can be bought online at bidpal.net/sjc.
“Raisin’ the Rent” is the single largest fundraiser of the year for St. John Center,” Jenn Young, the agency’s director of marketing and communications said in the release.
“It supplies more than 10 percent of our budget and is critical to our mission of providing hope and housing to homeless men.”