Benefit concert aids WNC veterans
It’s been two years since Bruce Yarrington and his Knights of Columbus buddies started volunteering at the Veterans Restoration Quarters in Asheville. Twice a month the crew makes the trip from Waynesville to cook for the veterans at the center.
“This is our baby,” said Yarrington, who served six years in the Marine Corps. “I’ve always looked for a hands-on way to help veterans, especially the younger ones coming back from Afghanistan and Iraq.”
The Veterans Quarters, a service of the Asheville Buncombe Community Christian Ministries, serves veterans in Western North Carolina. The ministry offers a residential program for homeless vets and strives to help them get back on their feet with housing, education and career training.
Yarrington learned about the veterans quarters from a friend in his Knights of Columbus chapter.
“A brother Knight told me about this veteran’s quarters. I said, ‘I’m a veteran, I want to help, what can I do out there?’” he recalled.
Yarrington and his brother Knights in Waynesville decided they would offer their time and talents by preparing food for the veterans staying at the quarters. Twice a month, on the first and second Friday, they trek to Asheville and hit the quarter’s kitchen.
“It started out as one Friday and it became two,” Yarrington said, explaining that the Waynesville contingent is but one group of volunteers hailing from around Western North Carolina.
During their visits, the Knights have become familiar with the quarters. They have gotten to know the veterans there, as well as their needs.
“A vet will open up to a vet,” Yarrington said.
In addition to preparing meals, the Knights started looking for other ways to help the center. They contacted Dale Walksler, who runs the Wheels Through Time museum in Maggie Valley, and gave him a tour of the veterans quarters.
“It touched his heart,” Yarrington said. “He said, ‘What can I do?”
The museum ended up partnering up with the veterans center. Half the proceeds raised through Wheels Through Time’s 12th annual motorcycle raffle will be donated to the Veterans Restoration Quarters.
Now, Yarrington has hatched another way to assist his fellow veterans. He has orchestrated a benefit concert, with proceeds from ticket sales benefiting the restoration quarters.
“He spearheaded this thing, got the ball rolling,” said Cheryl Wilson, special events director with the ABCCM.
To perform in the concert, Yarrington scouted out some backyard talent. Western North Carolina artists Balsam Range — a Haywood band that won big at this year’s International Bluegrass Music Association awards — will headline the show. Also on the bill is teenage country singer from Haywood County McKayla Reece, who was named an ambassador for the Disabled American Veterans at age 9.
Wilson said she’s excited that the benefit was able to land such a well-known group.
“We’re just glad that Balsam Range, who are big in this area, were willing to help,” she said.
It apparently was not a difficult decision for the musicians in Balsam Range.
“I am honored to make a little music for all the brave men and women who served our country. It’s the least I can do,” said mandolinist Darren Nicholson. “They’re the reason we have freedoms and the liberties to be entertainers, doctors, or whatever dreams we want to pursue in this life. Nothing in this world is free. We owe the most respect to our veterans.”
That sounds similar to the ABCCM’s mission with the Veterans Restoration Quarters ministry.
“We just think that we need to help these men and women that have served our country and come back and need a boost,” Wilson said.
It also sounds a lot like the reason Yarrington and the Waynesville Knights of Columbus chapter got involved. To give back.
Plus, like his brother Knight told him when first mentioning the center, it just feels good.
“Rick said, ‘Once you do it once, you’re gonna see a paycheck in the heart and see how good it feels,’” Yarrington recalled.
Want to go?
• Balsam Range and McKayla Reece Veterans Benefit Concert
• 8 p.m. Friday, Nov. 14
• Crowne Plaza Asheville