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Diverse crowd attends local Katrina fundraiser

November 06, 2005|By ANDREW SCHOTZ

andrews@herald-mail.com

HAGERSTOWN - Ten weeks after Hurricane Katrina ravaged the Gulf Coast, Hagerstown kept relief efforts alive and visible on Saturday with a music-and-dinner fundraiser.

About 200 tickets were sold, at $20 per person or $250 per corporate table. People could direct their ticket money to either The Salvation Army or the American Red Cross.

They heard The Rhythm Kings put a bluesy touch on Patsy Cline and Duke Ellington pieces.

They listened to The Commodores, Michael Jackson and other Motown artists, on records spun by disc jockeys Supa Dupa Disko and Cary B.

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They bid on an array of silent auction items, including a paper shredder, a set of eight goblets, a two-night stay at hotels in Florida and Maine, a charter fishing trip in Ocean City and a handmade rug valued at about $4,000.

Several individuals and businesses, including The Herald-Mail, were sponsors, along with the City of Hagerstown.

Rhonda Gundy, who works at New Beginning Salon & Barber Shop on East Washington Street, said the idea for the event came to her in two ways.

First, an acquaintance who wanted to celebrate her husband's birthday lamented that Hagerstown could use more social events.

Then, the hurricane hit and Gundy wanted to find a way to help.

She put the two together and came up with a gala, for a good cause.

Gundy said she also envisioned the evening as a community mixer: "Why can't we all get together and make nice."

Like many others, Gundy used the event as a reason to dress fancily.

"When I go out, I want to feel like a star," she said.

She was Saturday, as Councilwoman Alesia D. Parson-McBean praised her as the inspiration for the event.

Gundy said she pitched her idea to Parson-McBean, who worked to make it happen.

Councilman Lewis C. Metzner credited Parson-McBean "for having the motivation and drive for bringing us all out."

Parson-McBean and Maryland Del. Joanne C. Benson, D-Prince George's, a Hagerstown native, each noted the social mix of the crowd, which was close to half white and half African-American.

"It does my heart proud when I look around the room and see such diversity," Parson-McBean said.

"Many of us in this room have prayed for this night, when we can look in this room and see the wonderful diversity in Hagerstown, Maryland," Benson said.

Parson-McBean's sister, Cathy Parson, the guest speaker, urged the crowd to consider its legacy.

"Let's push one another to raise the standard ..." said Parson, the women's basketball coach at Howard University in Washington, D.C. "And the only way we can do that is be united ... You're going to touch the world, not just your neighborhood."

The hurricane crushed the neighborhood of a couple who attended Saturday.

Barbara Henson said she and her husband, Robin, had no electricity and no source of food or water for six days in their hometown of McHenry, Miss., after the hurricane hit.

Barbara Henson said they came to Hagerstown because her sister-in-law and her husband, Bonnie and Rick Blandford, live here.

Compared to McHenry - which has a population of about 1,000 - Hagerstown is "the big city," Barbara Henson said, but the couple doesn't plan to return to Mississippi.

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