Grateful Nation Gathers Guitars for Troops

International Musician, January 2008 | Go to article overview

Grateful Nation Gathers Guitars for Troops


A nonprofit partnership to bring musical instruments to US troops serving in Iraq has become a major success for AFM Local 20-623 (Denver, CO). Starting with one military mother's idea and a handful of donated guitars, a community partnership has resulted in more than 100 instruments being sent to Iraq, and a spirit of giving and goodwill throughout the Denver community.

Edith LeMaster of Aurora, Colorado, was first inspired by her son, Corporal Joe Kaniatobe, who requested a guitar before shipping out for Iraq in October 2006. Though not a musician herself, LeMaster found Local 20-623 listed in the Yellow Pages and knew that they could provide help for her mission.

Pete Vriesenga, president of Local 20-623, got on board with the project, soliciting donations from music stores and from the Denver Folklore Center. He singles out Local 20-623 members Harry Tuft and Gordon Close for their support. After lining up donations and spreading word of the project, called "Grateful Nation," Vriesenga went to Leyden-Chiles-Wickersham American Legion Post 1.

Donated instruments are sent to Local 20-623, and the American Legion post covers the cost of shipping and provides the manpower in packing up the guitars. Monetary donations go directly to the American Legion for purchasing new instruments.

"It's a sample partnership that could easily take root," Vriesenga says. "I'm just so proud of this thing."

Local 20-623 and the American Legion post have included notes in the cases with the instruments, telling the recipients about the idea behind the project and extending their support. …

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