Conor Oberst, Jim Ward and others Sunday at Barnett, raising money for the Hands of Love and Hope
by Elizabeth Ruiz
Posted on April 10, 2009
You wouldn’t see Irma Tovar on eBay buying $500 Coachella tickets to see Conor Oberst later this month. But because of Juarez orphans in need, a philanthropic motorcycle seller, and an assortment of local talent, these two unlikely comrades will be connected for a cause this Easter Sunday.
Barnett Harley Davidson will be host to a collection of bands, including Conor Oberst and The Mystic Valley Band and the Jim Ward-fronted Sleepercar, in order to collect goods for Hands of Love and Hope, a 501(c)(3) that has worked for orphans and homeless people in Juarez for the past 45 years.
Started by her mother Sister Suzie Valadez under the name Christ for Mexico, Irma Tovar has spearheaded the non-profit for 20 years. Since its inception, it has donated truckloads of goods to four of their missions, nine colonias where they do not have established buildings, three alcohol and drug rehab centers, six churches, three of which are run by the group, and five soup kitchens.
Tovar remained dedicated to the group ever since her summers growing up spent at the orphanage, continuing the mission of her mother. After appearing on Dr. Eliezer Ben-Joseph’s radio show talking about her mother’s mission, one listener’s ears perked up. Josh Brewer of local psychedelic blues outfit Refried Ice Cream had an “aha” moment. “We called him up and said we’d be willing to organize a canned goods event,” said Brewer.
Knowing the advantage of visibility, the group opted to have the benefit shows at Barnett Harley Davidson. The benefit shows featuring Refried Ice Cream and other local bands have brought in truckloads of goods to the Juarez orphans that benefit from Hands of Hope and Love.
Tovar attributes the lagging economy to the tapering off of donations, but says that the benefits have raised awareness. She estimates that her efforts feed about 5,000 orphans a month, including up to 2,000 adults in various shelters and colonias.
However, the 46 years in crossing the border have taught a lesson or two. “Funding is number one, water is a big deal,” she said. She noted a tendency of donors to give used clothes, which she says is very difficult to cross over because of Mexican immigration procedures that ban such items for fear of infections.
She said that check or money order donation and gift cards are the best ways to give for the cause, stressing that donations will be tax deductible if there is a written transaction and that gift cards should be from Wal Mart or Costco.
Although she is worried that the Easter holiday might put people off from going to a concert, she figures, “If people are going on picnics, they can’t go there all day.”
According to Tovar, Easter Sunday was the only day Oberst was available. The following Sunday, Oberst will be at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in Indio, California, an event that attracts fans worldwide.
A web of famous acquaintances lead Brewer to enlist Oberst, who fronted Bright Eyes, and Ward, who also has been a member of Sparta and At the Drive In, for the benefit. The famed Tornillo studio Sonic Ranch which has hosted recordings for about 70 international bands, including the Yeah Yeah Yeahs from New York, was a nexus.
Brewer said that people who converged at the Sonic Ranch in Tornillo made it possible to book Oberst and Ward for the show. The studio where Refried Ice Cream, The Mystic Valley Band, and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs have recorded recently grabbed attention when El Paso native Andi Teran wrote a piece on it for Vanity Fair.
According to Brewer, Oberst learned of the benefit through Nick Zinner of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and then decided to join. “Conor knew about the violence over there and said it sounded like a good cause,” said Brewer.
Native El Pasoan Ward was enlisted by Oberst, who he met while he was touring with At the Drive In in the 90s, and Refried Ice Cream because of his local ties. “Playing a show for free, it’s the least you can do,” he said of the cause.
The headliners will be joined by local blues group Duck Domino and organizers Refried Ice Cream for an eight-hour stretch, starting at noon. “I think you’re getting some pretty quality bands,” Ward said.
Ward’s rationale for participating and donating was “an easy call to make.” “[Those who donate] don’t have to live hand-to-mouth at the side of a dump,” he said. “We can help out in a small way.”
Most Viewed Stories
- Sex clubs and swingers in El Paso
- Outbound Brains
- Pop Stars like JackO, Andy Warhol and Karen O make me proud to be an American
- ABC-7 reporter and photographer handcuffed, detained while covering I-10 wreck
- VG 11.08: 8th Court of Appeals, Judge Place 3
- In the News: Sun Bowl
- Karlsruher: Open Letter to Senator Shapleigh’s Replacement
- Mexico human rights rep says Mexican government will not protect him from soldiers' threats
- California judge crusades for marijuana legalization
- Reporting the Drug War