SOUTHWEST HARBOR — The Ellsworth-based Trisha Mason Band will perform at Legion Hall on Saturday, March 24, from 6-8 p.m. for a “helluva time” benefit concert and dance for the Common Good Soup Kitchen. Admission by donation of $10 per person or $15 per couple is suggested.
Mason began as a solo artist at the Common Good back when it was located at Seawall. She said the late Larry Stettner was the key to the beginning of her musical endeavors as she became the founding member of the Larks.
A photo of Stettner, one of the two founding members of Common Good, now rests on the dining room wall. Stettner passed away unexpectedly last summer, but his legacy and energy carry on through Common Good.
“You can see the twinkle in his eye,” said Laurie Ward, operations manager on the board of directors.
The organization, which serves as a cafe in the summer and soup kitchen in the winter, moved to a smaller space on 19 Clark Point Road in May 2015, but live music remains a critical part of its concept and operation.
Common Good is open for Thursday lunches and Sunday popover brunch from 9 a.m. to noon, when the house Common Good Band gets together to play.
“A lot of people here don’t want to feel like they’re getting a handout, so we’ve always made it seem like a party,” said Matt Gerald, treasurer and co-chair of Common Good’s board of directors.
The fun, lively atmosphere and strong sense of community doesn’t only serve those who come to eat, according to Ward.
“We have volunteers who come to us sometimes who are struggling with mental illness or perhaps addiction issues or just different hard points in their life,” she said. “They come and see us, and then the next thing you know, they’re happy, they’re talking, they’re animated.”
Run entirely by donations and volunteer labor, the initiative has grown steadily since it started in 2009. Home deliveries now serve well over 50 people, according to the board members, and in peak season, the cafe pops out about 700 popovers a day.
“We now cook in 60-quart pots instead of three-gallon pots,” said Gerald.
The organization also has expanded from a home kitchen to an industrial-type setup with three ovens, a 10-burner stove and wall of refrigerators and freezers.
“We’ve come a long way from a kelvinator that had a piece of tape that kept the door from opening,” said board member Arnold Weisenberg.
The kitchen-cafe lost some of its original crowd when it moved to Clark Point Road, but Gerald said its new central location in town, which is more walk-in friendly, has allowed them to better serve those without access to enough food.
“The crowd in here is always a mix. You don’t know who is a millionaire and who is without a place to live,” said Frances Martin, who serves as board secretary.
“It’s nice, too, because some people who sit together and have lunch wouldn’t necessarily have any other reason to have contact in the community, so that’s building more community as well,” added Ward.
The board members said Common Good is looking to expand geographically as well as bring on another board member from the other side of the island. In terms of strategy, the organization seeks to apply for more grants and not rely only on donations.
“We’ve been really lucky with the donation stream because people come here, and they see it, and they, unsolicited, will make a donation to us,” said Gerald, “but we’re just feeling our way forward about how to write grants.”
Before Stettner passed away, the six board members would meet about five or six times a year. Now, they meet at least once a month.
“Larry did the work of about eight people, and so we all had to step up. It was scary last year, but we’ve come through, and we miss him every day,” said Gerald. “This organization definitely runs on love.”
Food from Chow Maine, The Common Good, Gott’s Store, Hansen’s Outpost and the Southwest Food Mart will be available at the benefit.
The Trisha Mason Band consists of Mason on guitar and vocals, Doug Empie on fiddle, Jack Kaspala on bass and electric guitar, and Steve Peer on drums.
The band has two albums, “Red Sky” and “Worse or Better.”
A “Mirthapalooza” celebration of Stettner and his work is being planned for Memorial Day weekend.