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Small Town, Big Impact

By Elizabeth Yerkes
Published on 9/14/2006

North Stonington - Dressed in their signature tie-dyed T-shirts, L.U.N.C.H. ensemble singers will raise voices and funds with 30 Wheeler high, middle, and fifth-grade school choristers to benefit hunger services in Stonington.

The hunger awareness concert on Oct. 20 will donate proceeds from ticket sales to the Pawcatuck Neighborhood Center and Mystic Area Shelter and Hospitality, among other agencies. In July, the center found out it would lose 18 percent of its United Way funding because of reduced contributions to the charity last year.

“We've had what feels like a punch in the gut,” Vicki Anderson said in reaction to the news. Anderson is executive director of the Pawcatuck Neighborhood Center. In an average week, the center serves hot lunches to more than 80 seniors and provides more than 400 families with bags of groceries. It also distributes weekend backpacks of food for children in need.

The Wheeler Students in Action (SIA) will sponsor the all-ages family concert. Bill Pere, Connecticut state troubadour, will head the L.U.N.C.H. ensemble, which comprises 30 students and adults from around the region.

Maggie Luckhardt, a Wheeler High School junior and member of the SIA, designed the promotional posters.

The SIA club routinely organizes food drives for local social-service agencies. Last spring, the club raised funds for a charity that provides water and food-related services around the world.

“We're hoping this concert will make a difference close to home,” Luckhardt said.

Pere founded the Local United Network to Combat Hunger in 1989 to continue the musical tradition of Harry Chapin and raise money and awareness for programs that address basic human needs.

Wheeler High School junior Katie Castagno is a L.U.N.C.H. member, but hasn't participated in previous hunger-awareness events at school. She looks forward to performing next month with schoolmates.

“It's fun to sing with different people. You can join the group if you have an interest in singing and believe in the cause. L.U.N.C.H. ensemble is great because anyone at any level of singing can take part as long as you have a positive attitude,” Castagno said.

The program includes music by Harry Chapin, and Bill and Kaye Pere. Much of the music has social commentary. Pere said the audience can expect to hear many Chapin favorites such as “W*O*L*D”, “Dance Band on the Titanic,” and the ensemble's hallmark closing song, “Circle.”

The Hunger Awareness Concert will be held at the Wheeler Gymatorium on Route 2, Friday, Oct. 20, from 6:15 to 9 p.m. Tickets cost $10 (adults), $5 (12 and under), or $25 per family and can be purchased that night, from the Wheeler SIA club, or by visiting


Originally Published September 2006, The Stonington Times

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