Josh Panda Band headlines hurricane benefit at the Old Lantern

Hurricane Irma’s devastation to the U.S. Virgin Islands was swift and severe. Weeks later, the residents of these popular vacation destinations and U.S. territories are still struggling to get clean water, food, medical care, and supplies to begin the slow rebuilding process.

Friday night from 6 to 11, the Old Lantern Inn and Barn hosts a benefit concert in Charlotte. Organizers hope the Josh Panda Band will be a popular draw to make it a successful fundraiser to help hurricane victims on the islands of St. John and St. Thomas.

Though geographically far from Vermont, the islands are close to the hearts of many here. Charlotte resident Adam Spell and his wife Jill own La Villa restaurant in Shelburne. He grew up on the island of St. Thomas with his brother, former Charlotte Selectboard member Jacob Spell, and their parents still have a restaurant there called Bumpa’s. La Villa is donating food for Friday’s event, along with Junior’s Downtown; the Old Lantern is donating the space.

“Your heart goes out to the poor and the elderly who need help there,” Jill Spell said. When Irma blew over the island, “everyone lost their cars,” she said, including Adam’s parents. “First, everything was blown away,” Jill said, “then Maria came through and flooded the island. They keep getting rain, and had another tropical storm this past weekend.”

All proceeds from the events will go to St. John Rescue and the Reform Church of St. Thomas, two carefully vetted nonprofit organizations that are distributing supplies directly to the islands’ residents. Lisa Gaujac, owner of the Old Lantern, said she’s encouraged by the robust support the event is already receiving, and that even those who can’t attend the event are still clicking on the donate button on the event’s website.

In addition to the festivities, solar equipment dealer SunCommon is showing a special viewing of the short documentary film “Hurricane to Climate Change” starting at 6:15 p.m., and will provide a complimentary drink ticket to all who arrive early to see the film. The band starts at 7 p.m.

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