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Concert flops, leaving vets group in debt

Cold rainy weather didn't stop the show, but a Nashville All-Stars Concert lost money last weekend instead of raising much-needed revenue for a local veterans organization.

Fewer than 500 paying customers attended the Saturday concert at the Expo's Lithia Motors Amphitheater, a venue that can hold more than 6,000. It rained on-and-off for most the day with cold weather at night, likely contributing to the poor attendance.

"We only had 10 percent of the projected turnout," said William Schmidt, a representative of Southern Oregon Veterans Benefit, the organization promoting the event. "A 90 percent deficit hit us hard."

The concert left the organization about $35,000 in the hole, which it is now desperately trying to cover. Among the efforts is an online donation site for the organization.

"I'm calling for a one-week challenge to all of Southern Oregon to show the vets how much we care and support them," Schmidt said. "Let's try to pull the organization out of the hole."

The challenge began Sunday.

The organization usually raises money by selling T-shirts called "Patriot Tees" printed with art drawn by veterans. It donates almost 70 percent of its proceeds to support veterans who are facing employment barriers involving transportation, work tools, training programs, car repairs, housing, utilities, clothing or licenses. The concert was an additional fundraising attempt to help more veterans.

"Our plan was to raise enough money to cover all the expenses of the concert and take the organization to the next level," Schmidt said. "With the low attendance and lack of funds, SOVB is not going to be able to help any veterans."

If a significant number of area residents would donate as little as $5 at www.sovb.org, "we can continue to help veterans and show them that this community really does care about them and appreciates their service," Schmidt said.

Despite the poor attendance, Schmidt said, the event was emotional for the audience. A flag ceremony opened the concert with young Marines, followed by two local girls who sang for the audience. The concert continued with three Nashville country stars: Darryl Worley, Steve Azar and the James House Band.

Green Berets, recruiters from different branches, the National Guard and active military servicemen also attended to volunteer and support the event. About 150 volunteers and sponsors helped with the concert, but only 476 tickets were sold.

"For the few that showed up, the moving experience was one that will be remembered for a long time," Schmidt said. "

Schmidt urged community members to help the organization by giving donations online, even if it's beyond the one-week challenge, or to call 541-778-3171. To view photos from the concert online see the wall on facebook.com/sovb1.

A representative of the Oregon Secretary of State's Corporation Division said the state had received no complaints about the veterans group and that it has been listed as an active nonprofit organization since 2000.

Vera Westbrook is a reporting intern for the Mail Tribune and can be reached at intern1@mailtribune.com.