Bluegrass Music Endeavors Foundation gives back in West Virgina

This article is a contribution from Bruce Winges, recently retired as editor of the Akron Beacon Journal after more than 40 years in newspapering. He got his first guitar in 1969 and became hooked on old-time and bluegrass music while working in Huntington, WV. He lives in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, and sits in with Crandall Creek whenever he can. 

Bluegrass was music to Judy Kesterson’s ears when she needed money to help recovering addicts.

A couple of years ago Judy was facing a challenging funding environment as director of Miracles Happen, a residential treatment facility in Wheeling, W.Va., for those recovering from alcohol and drug abuse. Crandall Creek, a bluegrass band from nearby Moundsville, helped fill that need by donating money from its shows to Miracles Happen.

“They not only play wonderful music,” Judy says, “but it also is wonderful for them to reach out to the community.”

Jerry Andrews started Crandall Creek Band (named after his favorite place to fly fish in Wyoming) in 2015. Jerry writes songs, plays guitar and sings. He had a vision for a bluegrass group made up of musicians who reflect his West Virginia roots in the songs they play and write. 

As the band was finding its voice, Jerry brought Donna Ulisse to Moundsville for a concert. Kathy Sacra-Anderson, manager of Hadley Music Group, was with Donna and met Jerry. She put the idea in Jerry’s head to give money earned from concerts back to the community.

 “I found an attorney to do the paperwork,” Jerry says, “and away we went.”

Bluegrass Music Endeavors Foundation was born. The foundation is a 501(c)(3) committed to producing first-rate affordable bluegrass concerts that raise funds for charities.

Tiny Moundsville (population 9,318, give or take) is the home of the Strand Theatre, which was built in 1920 and restored over the past several years. Profits from Crandall Creek’s Strand concerts are plowed back to the community – band members take no money from those events. In addition, Jerry says the band members agreed to give 10 percent of their profits from festival shows to charity. The money is funneled through Bluegrass Music Endeavors Foundation. The band also collects non-perishable items for the Feeding Body and Soul Soup Kitchen in Moundsville.

Members of the band like the idea of giving more than their music to the community.

“I think the mission is wonderful,” says Kathy Wigman Lesnock, vocalist and song writer. “I am that way in my personal life, church life, and I am glad to be that way in my band life.”

“I think it is great to give back to the community and do it through the music we love,” says Dustin Terpenning, who plays banjo and mandolin. 

“I am excited to be able to help people,” says Lilli Gadd, who sings, plays bass and guitar. “I am happy to donate through causes that are meaningful to us.” 

“For as long as I can remember, I’ve donated my music and time…” says Heather Wharton, who plays fiddle and sings. “I feel that sharing God’s gift is the best way to connect with other people and help them heal.”

Community support has been “incredible,” Jerry says. “And everyone we give to has been incredibly appreciative.”

Jerry does his own research to find where the money can do the most good. He also hears about community needs through word of mouth.

The band has raised thousands of dollars and 8,000 non-perishable food items.

Here are charities that Crandall Creek has supported through Bluegrass Music Endeavors Foundation:

  • St. Jude’s Children’s Research 
  • Miracles Happen
  • Reynolds Hospital Cancer Research
  • Feeding Body and Soul Soup Kitchen 
  • Helping Heroes veterans’ group
  • Sacred Solutions adoption agency
  • Black Lung Clinic at Cabin Creek Health Systems

And then there is the music itself.

Crandall Creek Band plays high-energy original music that reflects the West Virginia mountains and traditional bluegrass. They collaborate to create original material. The band’s first CD, Goin’ Down Home, came out in 2019. It was self-produced and recorded at Jamie Peck Productions in Wheeling. 

The band since has signed with Bell Buckle Records out of Bell Buckle, TN. Their second CD, Headed South, was produced by Jamie Peck and Valerie Smith of Bell Buckle. It is due out this spring. 

The band also made appearances at the 2019 IBMA World of Bluegrass in Raleigh and the 2020 SPBGMA band competition in Nashville. The band makes numerous area appearances, including at the Railyard Restaurant in Elkins, WV, the Penn Alps Restaurant in Grantsville, MD.  

Jerry gave the band’s first CD to Judy of Miracles Happen. They knew each other through mutual community ties.  

“I listen to that CD every day,” Judy says. “It is soothing.”