September 14, 2023
It was thirty-nine years ago this month that Bruce Springsteen began his long-standing tradition of embedding support for a locally-based organization, usually one engaged in anti-hunger work, within virtually every show thereafter on his concert tours. In late September of 1984, after his two Pittsburgh Civic Arena stops on the Born in the U.S.A. Tour, Springsteen donated $10,000 to the United Steelworkers of America Local 1397 food bank, after dedicating to Local 1397 during one of the Pittsburgh shows his performance of "The River" (a song directly inspired by experiences within Springsteen's own family, who also struggled financially during Bruce's childhood and adolescence.) Just under a month later, starting with his two October 1984 Tacoma Dome concerts in Washington, he also began allowing the grassroots organizations to set up tables and accept donations inside each venue, taking a moment during each concert to inform his audience of each group's representatives' presence in the building, and encouraging the audience-members to support the group's ongoing work, as well.
Since that time, at almost every Springsteen concert on almost every tour, he has continued to spotlight and support organizations that he believes are working to address many of the same key concerns addressed in his songs, and to help make a reality the ideals about which he sings. "There's something really dangerous happening to us out there," Bruce said onstage just before performing the version of "The River" he dedicated to Local 1397 at that September '84 Pittsburgh show. "We're slowly getting split up into two different Americas. Things are getting taken away from people that need them and given to people that don't need them, and there's a promise that's getting broken. In the beginning the idea was that we all live here a little bit like a family, where the strong can help the weak ones, the rich can help the poor ones. I don't think the American dream was that everybody was going to make it or that everybody was going to make a billion dollars, but it was that everybody was going to have an opportunity and the chance to live a life with some decency and some dignity and a chance for some self-respect."
At the most recent concerts by Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band - the three-show "homecoming" stand that ran through Labor Day Weekend 2023 at New Jersey's MetLife Stadium - support was given to three different anti-hunger organizations, with each of these organizations getting spotlighted and supported on a one-per-show basis: WHYHunger, Fulfill/Monmouth & Ocean, and The Community FoodBank of New Jersey.
Letters To You recently got to speak with Sammy Steinlight, who is a key member of Fulfill/Monmouth & Ocean's "Shore to Rock Hunger" committee, as well as a former and longtime member of Fulfill's Board of Trustees. Steinlight has worked closely with other key Fulfill colleagues, like current Board of Trustees member Rena Levine-Levy and "Shore to Rock Hunger" Committee co-chair Jeremy Neuer, around connecting Fulfill with the Jersey Shore music scene.
In addition to the support for Fulfill that Springsteen provided at his September 1st MetLife Stadium concert, last year he gave to Fulfill his permission to create special shirts with his famous quote, "Remember, in the end, nobody wins unless everybody wins" (preserved for posterity in the official Live/1975-85 music-video for "Born to Run.") "Fulfill sold thousands of shirts with proceeds going to our organization," Steinlight told us. "Each shirt purchased helped to deliver sixty meals to those in need in New Jersey's Monmouth and Ocean Counties." The shirt remains available for purchase and has since expanded into a variety of styles and apparel options. Click here to shop and place your orders.
Steinlight also informed us of the many other successful "Shore to Rock Hunger" campaigns that Fulfill has waged, working with other well-known Jersey-Shore-connected musicians and friends. Last May, for the first time ever, Fulfill held an all-star "Shore to Rock Hunger" concert at the Count Basie Center for the Arts in Red Bank, NJ. The event was a successful fundraiser for Fulfill, which reached its goal of being able to provide one million additional meals to those in need at the Jersey Shore. "We honored three people," said Steinlight, "who have been incredibly generous to Fulfill over the years: Tom Cunningham, who has supported Fulfill for the past seventeen years with his annual all-requests-for-donations edition of his popular Springsteen on Sunday weekly radio show on the Sunday before Thanksgiving; Jeff Kazee, keyboardist and Music Director for Southside Johnny & the Asbury Jukes, who raised over $26,000 during the COVID-19 lockdown period with his online all-request 'Living Room Lounge' fundraisers; and Jersey-based rocker Brian Kirk, whose various fundraising performances for Fulfill have raised over $23,000."
"Southside Johnny & The Asbury Jukes," Steinlight added, "with special thanks to Southside, Joe Prinzo and Jeff Kazee, also have invited Fulfill to collect donations at their Stone Pony and Basie Center shows, and let a rep from Fulfill be on stage to talk about the organization. Richie 'LaBamba' Rosenberg did the same thing at his Big Band show at the Pony last year. Adam Weiner, of Low Cut Connie fame, did the same at his Pony show last year, and will be doing the same at his December shows in Asbury this upcoming season. Tony Pallagrosi was generous enough to invite Fulfill to be the beneficiary at Glen Burtnik's Holiday Show last year at the Basie. Fulfill CEO Triada Stampas was onstage to receive an amazing check donation of $10,000."
All funds raised by Fulfill go towards funding its various anti-hunger and anti-poverty programs, including its Senior Food programs, Kids' Feeding programs, and Mobile Pantries programs. "Fulfill is on the front lines," Bruce Springsteen told his audience at the September 1st MetLife Stadium concert, "doing God's work... Give them a hand." Kelly Watts, Fulfill's Vice President of Development and External Relations, later said, "We were thrilled to have the opportunity to collect donations at Bruce Springsteen's show at MetLife stadium on September 1st. We know that Bruce's fans are always so responsive to his shout-out for them to support the local food banks. Our team of volunteers had a great night and we were fortunate to receive so many donations -- of all sizes. It will truly help us in our fight to end hunger in Monmouth and Ocean Counties."