DeKALB – After a fiery July in DeKalb County that saw over 200 people lose their homes due to fires in DeKalb and Sycamore, Michael Embrey said "tragedy should not be defined by a city limit," and wants the community to come together to help each other out.
Embrey, of FunME Events, in partnership with the DeKalb Park District, is organizing "DeKalb County Pride – Communities Coming Together," a free benefit concert set for 6 p.m., Aug. 21 at the Hopkins Park band shell in DeKalb.
"We cannot be divided by city limit signs," Embrey said Wednesday. "We had fires in both cities. We need to show compassion, and do something for everybody. Community unity should be the motto of all the towns and villages that make up DeKalb County."
The concert will feature five bands: Reilly Farrell, The Noah Brooks Coalition, The Elderly Brothers Band, Johnny & the Boomers and the Luxury Pork Band. Concert goers are encouraged to donate what they can, and all proceeds will support the victims' ongoing rehabilitation efforts through the DeKalb County Community Gardens, which played a significant role in the aftermath of the fires.
Food and beverages will be available for purchase from Fatty's Pub & Grill in DeKalb and Tom & Jerry's Restaurant in Sycamore. Boy Scout Troop 33 of DeKalb will also be on hand to serve refreshments, along with other food vendors, Embrey said.
Dan Kenney, founder of the community gardens said to date the Grow Mobile – the mobile food pantry which offers fresh produce, frozen meat and other items donated by local grocery stores, pantry items and other products – has served 596 people since the fires.
Kenney said he appreciated Embrey thinking about the pantry and the service they've been providing to residents in need. Kenney brought the Grow Mobile to the St. Albans Green fire at 6 a.m. the Sunday after the fire to make sure displaced residents had breakfast, milk and cereal.
"We're very grateful," Kenney said, adding the mobile pantry operates in conjunction with the Northern Illinois Food Bank. "When people donate $1, we're able to get $8 worth of food [from the bank]. We're going to be focused on getting a lot of startup pantry items like salt, pepper, condiments."
DeKalb Mayor Jerry Smith and Sycamore Mayor Curt Lang will welcome concert-goers, and local vendors will set up shop to offer additional services and gifts to victims.
Embrey said FunMe will also be donating a meal to a family of four from both DeKalb and Sycamore. His organization also hopes to connect with music students who may have been victims of the fire who lost their instrument. If you lost an instrument due to the fires in DeKalb and Sycamore, contact Embrey at m.embrey@FunMEevents.com.