Fiery Hope is thrilled to receive a grant from the Markham-Nathan Fund for Social Justice. We applied because we sought support for a special project in which we joined forces with the Sgt. Jacob Garmalo Memorial Fund, named in honor of a young man who grew up in Leyden, MA. In early adulthood, Jacob worked as a correctional officer at the Franklin County jail, where he was highly regarded by administrators, staff, and incarcerated people alike. In 2016, Jacob was struck by a car, which resulted in his death. His mother, Kathleen, wanted to do something in her son’s memory to help the very people he worked so hard to support: incarcerated members of our community.

Given that our chorus has presented programs and workshops in many jails, prisons, and rehab units over the last 30 years, we regarded partnering with the Garmalo Fund to be a perfect fit. The Fund experienced a double-whammy in recent years: donations dwindled during COVID, and a clerical error led to the loss of non-profit status. Meanwhile, people continued to suffer: many incarcerated people have lost birth certificates and / or ID cards due to homelessness, addiction, or other issues. Without these crucial items, many are unable to restart their lives and often end up back in jail, stuck in a vicious cycle. The Garmalo Fund has provided hundreds of birth certificates and ID cards, and helped pay for the first month’s rent in sober housing for formerly incarcerated people. It has also helped purchase clothing for people who have no other access to such basic necessities.

Our April 27 benefit concert in support of the Sgt. Jacob Garmalo Memorial Fund allowed us to demonstrate our fervent belief that our incarcerated brothers and sisters deserve to be welcomed as beloved members of our community both while they’re still inside and after they are released. Through the concert and related fundraising efforts, we took in nearly $10,000 for the Fund, but of course had to spend a sizable amount of our own money to put on the show and take care of business. The grant from the MN Fund will enable us to reimburse ourselves so that we, too, have a better chance of surviving this economic era that challenges people and organizations that tend to be marginalized in our society. On an individual level, formerly incarcerated people are often hit hard by obstacles; similarly, on an organizational level, small arts orgs like Fiery Hope often struggle to survive. Thanks to the largesse of the MN Fund, we now have a win-win situation: we significantly boosted the Garmalo Fund, and now we can claim to be in the black, too.

We are very grateful to the Markham-Nathan Fund for making our communities gentler, more compassionate, more just places to live. “ Eveline, Fiery Hope