ST. PETERSBURG – More than 100 people came out to the Palladium Theatre last Thurs., March 24 to the first Have-A-heART Dinner Theatre benefit that entertained and fed more than 85 homeless people. The non-profit organization Operation Grace sponsored the event with the help of Bethel Community Baptist Church.
A city trolley was donated to transport the homeless to Palladium where they were escorted to the mini theater where they enjoyed an afternoon of food and entertainment. The impact of the event on the community was evident by the racks of donated clothes, bags of shoes, non-perishable canned foods, toiletries and self-maintenance supplies.
The heART Mission is a community service-based organization designed by artists of the Broadway community to give back to the community through acts of service. These services include clothing drives, food drives, preparing and feeding the homeless, families in crisis and mentorship programs.
“I think one of the highlights was one of the attendees who got up and start singing,” Martina Sykes said, referring to a homeless young man who asked if he could sing a song. “He asked my father (Rev. Dr. Manuel Sykes) and he said, ‘yes,’ and he came up on stage and tore it down!”
The young man’s name is Quentin, and he is currently staying at the St. Vincent DePaul Center of South Pinellas.
Other performers included LaQuelle Mills’ group Style-Ography, Pinellas County Center for the Arts student Cierra and, of course, Broadway star Martina.
At the end of the program, the homeless showed their unity, empathy and concern for each other by posing for a picture with their backs turned towards the camera.
Martina hopes to bring another event for the homeless to the area within six months. Her heART mission has garnered the support of the female cast members in “Beautiful: The Carol King Musical,” the cast of “Hamilton,” former and current members of the traveling Broadway hit “Motown: The Musical” and local community activist Momma Tee Lassiter.
“Motown” cast mate Elijah Ahmad Lewis helped Martina produce the heART commercial, logo, and designed the non-profit organization’s website to promote the event. For more information about how you can help, check out the website at www.theheartmission.org.