Concert supports homeless family shelters

See how, in his typical low-key way, Michael Allen Harrison helped out folks who have nowhere else to spend the night …

Ready to welcome Michael Allen Harrison are Human Solutions’ Daybreak Shelter Coordinator Edith Morillo, as well as Scott Langen, Event Development Specialist Sara Fisher, and Director of Programs Jill Weir.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
Parkrose-raised and internationally-known musician Michael Allen Harrison traveled to the Mill Park Neighborhood in outer East Portland on the evening of September 3 for a good cause: To raise funds for Human Solutions Daybreak Shelter for Homeless Families.

The summertime “call of the outdoors” didn’t keep 65 people from coming to Gethsemane Lutheran Church, located at 11560 SE Market Street for this annual event. The free concert, at which donations are accepted, is one of the many concerts Harrison donates to community charities.

Event Development Specialist Sara Fisher helps welcome Michael Allen Harrison to the concert hall.

“The Daybreak Shelter is a 15-bed shelter that operates year-round and accommodates between four and eight homeless families at one time,” explained Human Solutions Director of Development Scott Langen, while awaiting the pianist to arrive.

“We’re so happy that, for many years, Michael Allen Harrison presents a concert for us,” Langen told East Portland News. “Being a well-known and respected outer east Portland personality, he draws a large audience. This concert is a good way to introduce people to our organization, and perhaps to participate with us.”

Michael Allen Harrison begins his concert with an original composition.

With the Daybreak Shelter program, Langen explained, 10 churches take turns providing overnight shelter for the homeless. “We have a day center that serves as the service hub. And, 20 additional churches provide meals and hospitality for the families.”

Although churches support the Daybreak Shelter, Human Solutions is not a faith-based operation, Langen remarked. “There is not a religious or evangelical component to the shelter services offered. It’s an older concept that came out of the War on Poverty out of the 1960s – churches helping their community, coordinating through a secular non-profit organization.”

Many people listen while Michael Allen Harrison serenades the crowd.

About 10,000 volunteer hours are donated to help keep the shelter’s operating every year, he added. “They are doing it because they are inspired by their faith, instead of trying to convert people to their faith.”

Michael Allen Harrison then walked up to the church, handed off a stack of CDs, and began playing.

After beginning with one of his original “symphonic piano” compositions, Harrison kibitzed with the crowd.

Harrison connects with the audience, mostly outer East Portland folks, having grown up in the area.

As if they were in his living room, the polished raconteur looked very much at home, sitting at the piano and talking with the people who came to see him.

“I remember playing at the D Street Corral when I was younger,” Harrison reminisced. “Does anyone remember that place?”

Smiles came across people’s faces in recognition of the once-popular night spot.

“The bands I played with there knew I was only 14 years old; but no one else did. My dad drove me to play at all the clubs and gigs; I wasn’t old enough to drive!”

Harrison begins playing his arrangement of “Summertime”.

Although the temperature in the church by then was a bit warm, his cool rendition of the Gershwin song “Summertime” swept the audience away with memories of summer evenings.

For more information about Human Solutions, see their website: CLICK HERE.

© 2013 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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