Jamie O'Neal and Manwich at CMA Music Fest

The 2010 CMA Music Festival was flooded with new activities and opportunities for the fans as well as the artists in attendance. On Saturday, June 12, ConAgra Food’s Manwich hosted an Open Mic Night Contest for aspiring country musicians. 152 contestants auditioned, with eight making it through to Saturday’s final round. Held at the Sports Zone Stage, the finals were judged by country music star Jamie O’Neal (Somebody’s Hero and There Is No Arizona) and CAA music agent Laura Hutfless. Kimberlie Helton of Henderson, Tennessee took home the grand prize and was awarded a trip for two to the CMA Music Awards and a guitar autographed by Jamie O’Neal!

Photos of the event can be seen at http://MomentsByMoser.zenfolio.com/manwich

Also taking place during the backstage press conference at LP Field on Saturday, June 12th, ConAgra Food’s Manwich made a $10,000 donation to the Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee to aid with flood relief. Jamie O’Neal was on hand again with Christopher Sinta and Ryan Stalker from ConAgra Foods to present the check to Ellen Lehman, President of the organization.

Photos of the press conference are available at http://MomentsByMoser.zenfolio.com/lppresssat

Read the questions and answers with media representatives during the press conference below:
Manwich Representative: Thank you everyone for coming. Manwich has had a fantastic week down here. We are a first year partner with the CMA and are extremely excited to be here. We know that the city of Nashville and the surrounding areas have had a tremendous time with flooding and now the concentration on rebuilding and relief efforts from the tragedy that happened a little over a month ago. We wanted to follow up with CMA’s significant donation to the Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee and further help out with that effort. Ellen, on behalf of Manwich and Jamie O’Neal, we would like to present you with a $10,000 check

Ellen Lehman (Community Foundation): On behalf of everyone that is going to benefit, thank you so much. This really helps a lot as does all the CMA activity. The shear economic development results of people out shopping, spending money, the hotels, restaurants; it has been an incredible weekend for a city that needed an incredible weekend. Thank you so much for being a part of it.

Q: To Chris and Ryan (Manwich): This is your first time to view this amazing event do you feel that you invested your money well? And can you elaborate on why you chose to become involved with CMA as well.

Chris: To be honest with you, as we look at our consumer research. We know that Manwich goes very well with the country music listener. We couldn’t think of a better partner to get involved with. This is something we haven’t done a lot of in the past with this particular brand. We consider this a significant investment and we think it has come up as a shining star this weekend. We have seen a tremendous amount of samples being given out and consumers enjoying the product. We are really excited to be here.

Q: Jamie, you were auditioning singers earlier today? Talk about your event today and also about CMA Festival. You have been doing this for several years; please talk about the fan support you receive.

JO: I think this is my ninth Fan Fair / CMA Fest and it is incredible every year. I was lucky enough to be asked by Manwich to be a part of an open Mic contest which for me is exciting to be a part of because you see new talent and you find new, great people all the time in situations like that. At the same time, I felt for them because they were up there singing a cappella and it was also 101 degrees. It was great to be a part of it and an honor to be asked for my opinion. The fans are incredible. I think of the tragedy we have had and wonder if everyone is going to come out. Then knowing the tickets were sold out and the reaction that everyone has had; the excitement is great. It’s better, if not better than last year and the year before. I am so honored to be a part of everything; including singing the National Anthem and to be asked by Manwich to be a part of their great company. I know Manwich is great and country music fans love to eat and that is one of the best things I can say, it is such a great meal for my family. I was happy to be asked, thank you for having me.

Q: Ellen, can you give us a quick overview of how the Community Foundation works and how the Community Foundation has been fortunate enough to be chosen for so many things.

Ellen: Not unlike everything else in Music City, the Community Foundation is a 20 year overnight success. For 20 years, we have been working to connect generosity with needs. We try and take the people who can help and tie them to people that need help. It has taken a lot of different forms over the course of time. We provide customized philanthropic services. Donors can come to us and say “I have always wanted to have a scholarship in honor of my Father” and we can make that happen. One example is about eight years ago we sat down with then Mayor Bill Purcell and talked about the experiences after the tornados and asked if can we put in place a system that will allow this community to respond quickly and well and also create a mechanism and platform whereby the non-profit organizations that respond to disaster will know each other better and be able to work more closely and do that with confidence. Through that, the office of Emergency Management redid its master plan and included the Community Foundation as the central repository for the cash donations in time of crisis. We knew from 9-11 and we knew from Oklahoma City and Katrina that without a central repository, there would end up being lots of little pockets of money that was each duplicating effort. It seemed much more efficient to have one place where contributions could come and then with the help and expertise of people in government and in the private sector and in the non-profit sector, they could be strategically deployed to meet the needs of the community.

Q: For the flood victim that legitimately needs help, what do you say to them?

Ellen: Our first round of grants was to organizations that have a lot of long standing, trusting relationships with the victims of the flood. They were strategically picked in areas like Bellevue, etc. We have never given gifts to individuals. We give grants to non-profit organizations. If we were to give gifts to individuals, #1-we wouldn’t have enough money to make a difference and #2—they wouldn’t have access through the ancillary services that these non-profits can offer.

Q: I have had people that have lost everything ask about all the money that is being raised and how they can tap into this. How would they find out how to get help?

Ellen: That is a very interesting facet of this particular disaster. There have been, from the beginning, four focal points. One was that these victims of the floods were people that had never accessed help before. They were people that had stood proudly on their own two feet, who had made their own way in the world, who in many cases owned their own homes, had paid off the mortgages, had lived there for 40 years, and raised their kids. They were a different population than what is normal. We created a first round of grants to get them help in accessing services. One of those grants for instance was legal aid because we knew two things were happening. One is insurance companies are almost always going to say no. It doesn’t mean that is the last answer, it just means it is the first answer. If you have never had to file an insurance claim before, you deserve to have an expert that you can call for free and find out that you can go back and ask again. This is true in every disaster this country has had. When people go to rebuild their homes, there are contractors that suddenly pop up that really don’t help. That is just one example.
We also fund mental health. There are huge issues of post traumatic stress in this community. It is important to give people that kind of help. The same is true with case management, access to services, etc. We can’t give money to individuals which I know is a huge disappointment to them, but the fact is even with this huge outpouring of generosity, the money we would have for each FEMA claim is about $100. That really wouldn’t do anyone any good and frankly, I don’t think it would make anyone feel better.

Q: How can people find out about these grants that you are issuing? How can they find out what kind of services are available to them that they could benefit from?

Ellen: Every grant that we have made is on our website. It is accessible and the information is available. We also have an application. We are being proactive with the grants we are making, but we are also being reactive. The reactive part is any non-profit organization can apply to us including churches. We are eager to get this money out to them to help their congregates in that particular case. The proactive ones have been the first group of grants going towards case management. We also know there are huge transportation issues. The biggest issue is housing and we are working very closely with the Mayor’s team of experts, who are phenomenal, to help us understand how we can address needs like housing. We are not housing experts and for us to go and say “we think you should do this” might not be the wisest course of action. It is very important that we draw on the expertise of folks in the community to make sure that we use this money wisely.

Q: A bunch of fan club events this week are donating their money to the flood relief and the CMA is giving a big portion too. Do you know at this point how much you will raise this week?

Ellen: Not a clue. Sorry. But we are ever so appreciative.

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