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Singin' the Blues for Haiti

The orphanage Lacey Hewitt is working at in Haiti got some musical money help Monday night in Grand Forks from people from her home area. Hewitt is the Lancaster, Minn., woman who went to Haiti several months ago to help at a Christian orphanage,...

Gene Lunsetter (second from the right) leads the WoodPicks in a song Monday night at the Empire Theatre in Grand Forks during a benefit concert to aid the earthquake victims in Haiti. With Lunsetter are band members Greg Dally, Dustin Keller (left to right) and Joe Kezae (far right). Herald photo by John Stennes.

The orphanage Lacey Hewitt is working at in Haiti got some musical money help Monday night in Grand Forks from people from her home area.

Hewitt is the Lancaster, Minn., woman who went to Haiti several months ago to help at a Christian orphanage, run by Reach Out to Haiti, a missions group based in Melrose, N.Y.

Hewitt, 26, wasn't hurt in the earthquake last month, but reached out for more help after the disaster.

Her father, Jim Hewitt, a deputy sheriff in Kittson County, went to Haiti last week, as did a group of medical professionals and others from the Grand Forks area.

Other family members and friends put on the benefit concert and silent auction Monday night in the Empire Arts Center downtown.


The turnout Monday night was less than organizer Steve Matzke hoped for, he said. He knows the Hewitt family through the music business; he produces shows at the Empire while not at his day job.

"I've done 90 percent of organizing this over the phone while I was on the road," he said. "I'm a trucker."

But the main thing was more money was raised for orphans in Haiti, by having a good time of music, Matzke said.

Ben Lauer, a UND student from Minot, was about the first fan to arrive.

"I heard there was going to be come blues bands playing here, and I like the blues," he said. "And the Haiti benefit. So, it's two-in-one for me."

The silent auction included everything from a basketball signed by UND's team, to posters signed by Nashville stars such as Travis Tritt and Marty Stuart, to a red tin of "one dozen 8 lefse rounds."

"This lefse is so fresh it was still warm when packaged," the sign said.

The silent auction's big ticket was a 1971 Fender Stratocaster guitar -- the style Eric Clapton plays -- signed by dozens of musicians, including the legendary blues guitarist Buddy Guy, donated by Little Bobby Houle, the famous-himself blues singer/guitarist from the Red Lake Indian Reservation. Houle played for the benefit.


The minimum bid for his customized Fender was $1,000, and it didn't go before the silent auction ended. But radio station KYCK, which donated several items, and other stations promised to continue the auction on-air in coming days, Matzke said.

The bands

The bands included T.J. Porter, a cowboy-hat wearing Todd Porter from Karlstad, Minn., who is Lacey Hewitt's uncle.

Also playing were the WoodPicks, a bluegrass combo from Thief River Falls; Peat Moss and Bones, aka Greg Norman and Lee Barnum from Grand Forks; Tim West & Friends from Beltrami, Minn.; the Diers family band of Grand Forks; and John Haugen & Friends, which was a version of Little Bobby Houle and his local blues band.

It was good to be part of something to help people in Haiti, Joe Kezar, front man of the WoodPicks, told the crowd of about 60.

Lacey Hewitt's connections to Haiti and music run deep. Her younger sister, Ashlee Hewitt, is a rising star in Nashville, singing and acting.

Their parents, Jim and Kelli, adopted three children from Haiti 15 years ago and are looking to adopt more.

Lacey Hewitt keeps a blog going from Haiti, at www.laceyinhaiti.blogspot.com , where she explains her mission.


"I've dreamed about doing something meaningful with my life to help people, and little did I know God would send me to Haiti, which is considered not a Third but a Fourth World country. The very thing I was scared of doing as child, I am experiencing with pure joy. I feel so blessed that God chose to use me for His purpose."

She finds inspiration in a verse from I Peter, Hewitt writes: "For this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example which you should follow in His steps."

Contributions, before Monday's benefit, to the Lacey Hewitt's orphanage fund totaled about $7,300, Matzke said.

Early today, he said the $10 tickets for Monday night's show, plus extra donations, came to about $2,000, and the silent auction took in about $500, bringing the total so far to about $10,000.

Everyone, including the bands, volunteered to put on the benefit and auction, and the Empire donated its place, Matzke said.

"Every dime we take in is going to Haiti," he said.

People still can make donations to Hewitt's work by mailing them to the Lacey Hewitt Orphanage Fund at Frandsen Bank and Trust, 1413 Central Ave., East Grand Forks MN 56721; or call Matzke at (218) 779-9027.

Reach Lee at (701) 780-1237; (800) 477-6572, ext. 237; or send e-mail to slee@gfherald.com .


Greg Norman
Greg Norman of Peat Moss sings a song at Monday's Haitian earthquake benefit in Grand Forks. Herald photo by John Stennes.

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