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600 attend Utility Relief Benefit

December 18, 2008|By Dave McMILLION

HAGERSTOWN -- The City of Hagerstown's Utility Relief Benefit Concert on Thursday night was designed to do more than raise money to help people pay for their heating bills this winter.

It was a chance to showcase local musical talent or even make up for a few things, organizers said jokingly.

Councilwoman Alesia D. Parson-McBean said the show "gives back for all the noise we make in the summer" for city-related musical events.

For the payback, concert organizers invited some guests for free, like people in assisted living facilities in the city, Parson-McBean said.

About 600 people turned out at the concert and Parson-McBean said she is hopeful that the show would bring in thousands of dollars.

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"This is fun," said master of ceremonies Tom Riford, president and CEO of the Hagerstown-Washington County Convention and Visitors Bureau.

It was the second year the city has held the benefit concert.

Last year's concert raised $20,500 although only about $3,000 was claimed, organizers said. Parson-McBean said people realized they could get more utility assistance from other programs.

The roughly $18,000 left over from last year's show will be added to what is raised from Thursday night's show to help people with heating bills, city officials said.

On Tuesday and Wednesday, the city held a Utility Relief Application Fair at City Hall to help residents get money through the program.

Mayor Robert E. Bruchey II said during Thursday's concert that about 150 people have applied for help this year. Recipients can get as much as $500.

Internationally acclaimed opera performer William Clarence Marshall III got things rolling with his rendition of The Star-Spangled Banner.

Other performers scheduled included Hagerstown resident Abigail Nigh and choirs from Clear Spring Middle and Smithsburg High schools.

"This is great," said audience member Skip Anderson, whose daughter was performing in the Smithsburg Jazz Band.

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