OKEECHOBEE — Visitors to the Okeechobee Music Festival had a chance to learn more about local nonprofit organizations at booths on the festival’s Participation Row. OMF 2020 took place Thursday through Sunday, March 5-8, in Sunshine Grove in northeast Okeechobee County.
The festival fans seemed more engaged this year, said Jonathan Bean of Martha’s House (shelter for victims of domestic violence). He said everyone he spoke to was friendly and seemed to be happily enjoying the festival. He said the OMF participants seemed to be a lot more talkative this year than in years past. Visitors to the Martha’s House booth on Participation Row were encouraged to make colorful handprints to express their home life as a child.
He said the Martha’s House staff and volunteers look forward to interacting with the OMF fans every year. “This is a population of people from all over the place that we can get our message to. It’s exciting to be able to do that,” he said.
“Everyone seems really happy to be here,” said Courtney Moyett of the Okeechobee Substance Abuse Coalition.
At the coalition’s booth, fans were encouraged to write positive messages, which were displayed on colorful banners. She said they realize that not everyone at the festival wanted to hear their message about the dangers of drug use, but said, “If we can make a difference in the life of one person, it’s worth it. That’s why we’re here.”
Participants could also write the names of loved ones on a memorial banner. Kelly Demeter said many were appreciative for the chance to talk about the friends and relatives lost to substance abuse. “One kid found his father dead 12 years ago,” she said. After sharing his story, he thanked those at the Substance Abuse Coalition for providing the opportunity for a healing experience.
At the Head Count booth, volunteers were busy with a voter registration drive. A volunteer explained that 45 states allow voters to use the federal voter registration form, so they could help register voters from out of state as well as Florida. They also asked visitors to make the “Me Plus 3,” pledge, promising to vote and to encourage at least three friends or relatives to vote in the 2020 elections.
Fans exploring Participation Row who visited four or more nonprofits had the chance to win a signed OMF D’Angelico guitar. Attendees were issued stamp cards, where one stamp can be collected from each nonprofit once a positive action is taken. Once a card had at least four stamps, attendees visited the HeadCount booth to enter to win the D’Angelico guitar signed by various Okeechobee performers.
Participation Row included:
• Big Brothers Big Sisters — Providing children facing adversity with strong and enduring, professionally supported one-to-one relationships that change their lives for the better, forever.
• Helping People Succeed — Transforms lives by realizing potential, creating hope and building futures through education, counseling, training and employment.
• Healthy Start — Dedicated to establishing legislation that guarantees all women have access to prenatal care and that all infants have access to services that promote normal growth and development.
• Martha’s House — Dedicated to working to end domestic violence, and to serve survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault, through a 24-bed emergency shelter and 24-hour hotline, while providing outreach services, violence prevention education, court hearing accompaniment, victim’s compensation and more.
• Okeechobee Substance Abuse Coalition — Educates youth on the dangers of drugs and alcohol and provides them with positive activities.
• Treasure Coast Food Bank — To alleviate hunger by obtaining and distributing food and other essentials in Indian River, Martin, St. Lucie and Okeechobee.
• Archbold Biological Station — Dedicated to long-term ecological research with staff, visiting investigators and students conducting research primarily focused on population ecology and conservation biology, emphasizing ecological changes over local and regional scales, and demographic shifts in ecologically sensitive species.
• Humane Society — Working to end animal cruelty practices, care for animals in crisis, build a stronger animal protection movement and increase capacity to drive global change.
• Thank You For Your Service — Providing active-duty military, veterans and first responders with information on post traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD), traumatic brain injury (TBI), suicide prevention and other military and veteran support organizations.
• Okeechobee Main Street — Designed to improve all aspects of the Okeechobee downtown district by improving economic management, strengthening public participation and building on its rich architecture and new businesses.