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  • Jon Bon Jovi receives Marian Anderson Award

    From www.jonbonjovisoulfoundation.org

    Jon Bon Jovi, founder and front man for the iconic band Bon Jovi and Chairman of the Jon Bon Jovi Soul Foundation, accepted the 2014 Marian Anderson Award last evening during a gala dinner and concert at the Kimmel Center in Philadelphia. The singer, songwriter, actor, and producer, known for his philanthropy, has a long history of civic and humanitarian outreach.

    Both musically and philanthropically, Jon Bon Jovi’s work honors the spirit of America and salutes the principles that define our nation. Self-reliance, optimism, and community are key concepts he embodies, not just in his music, but also in his charitable efforts. These common threads have resulted in millions of dollars raised while bringing heightened awareness to the issues of homelessness and hunger that adversely impact our society. As Chairman of the Jon Bon Jovi Soul Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to bringing about positive change and helping the lives of those in need “one SOUL at a time,” he focuses on the issues of food and shelter for individuals and families experiencing hunger and homelessness. In the Philadelphia region, the Foundation has supported a range of organizations, including Project HOME, Covenant House, Rebuilding Together and Northern Children’s Services, as well as Heart of Camden and Saint Joseph’s Carpenter Society in Camden, NJ.


    According to Nina C. Tinari, board chair of the Marian Anderson Award, “Jon Bon Jovi exemplifies the spirit of the Marian Anderson Award, which is to honor an artist whose leadership benefits humanity. We are honored to present him with this award in recognition of his many philanthropic contributions, especially those here in Philadelphia.”

    Jon’s opening remarks reflected on the privilege of being named recipient of the Award: “I am deeply humbled to be here tonight to accept this award. I do so fully aware of the rich and powerful legacy of this honor and the many iconic figures who have stood here before me. Each of the recipients of the Marian Anderson Award made great contributions to the arts, of course – but they used their GIFTS to seek change in our society and culture. Marian Anderson, Dr. Maya Angelou, Harry Belafonte, Sidney Poitier - these great men and women were all blessed with tremendous artistic gifts and were all role models in the truest sense of the word. Although they were recognized for their gifts - - we celebrate them for their actions.”


    Hosting last evenings gala was award-winning comedian Wanda Sykes. Performing during the prestigious event was rock band The All-American Rejects (performing an acoustic set); British singer-songwriter and Grammy Award-winner, Estelle; American actor, singer-songwriter, and record producer Jon Batiste of Stay Human; as well as 18-year-old Philadelphia violinist Sean Bennett, recipient of the Award’s Young Artist Study Grant, who this past summer attended the world-renowned Interlochen Summer Arts Camp.

    In his remarks, Jon spoke about when the Soul Foundation [jbjsf.org] was founded: “We truly could not have known the lives we would touch or the impact it would have. It is the shared belief in the basic dignity of the human soul and HOW with a little hope and opportunity people from all walks of life have the potential to ASPIRE to greatness and along the way INSPIRE others.”

    “It is such a special evening because the Marian Anderson Award Gala is the one night of the year in Philadelphia when we celebrate the unique capacity of the artist to change the world, “ said Tinari. She added, “This event allows us to celebrate the spirit and accomplishments of Marian Anderson and fulfill her intentions to support young, talented artists, like Sean Bennett, so that he and others like him will get the instruction needed to reach their full potential.”

    The Young Artist Study Grant program (YASG) is administered with the support of Marian Anderson Award partner, the University of the Arts, and is also made possible through a new partnership with Interlochen Center for the Arts in Michigan. YASG is designed to support high school-age artists who have financial challenges. Funds raised through the annual award gala help support this initiative and benefit over 20 students each year.

    The Marian Anderson Award was created in 1998 to celebrate critically acclaimed artists – individuals who have used their talents for personal artistic expression and whose body of work has contributed to our society in a singular manner. It is named in memory of the legendary singer and distinguished Philadelphian, Marian Anderson. Previous honorees include Harry Belafonte, Gregory Peck, Dame Elizabeth Taylor, Quincy Jones, Danny Glover, Oprah Winfrey, Ruby Dee and Ossie Davis, Sidney Poitier, Richard Gere, Maya Angelou and Norman Lear, James Earl Jones, and Berry Gordy.

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  • Jon Bon Jovi talks "interdependence" at Philly award

    By Chris Jordan, (app.com)
    Why get involved?

    It’s about the “interdependence” of people, said Jon Bon Jovi while receiving this year’s Marian Anderson Award for his humanitarian work in Philadelphia during a ceremony at the city’s Kimmel Center on Tuesday, Nov. 18.

    “Even though my journey has been vastly different than those traveled by Marian Anderson and others who have received this honor - perhaps it is our shared human experience that has led us to this common conclusion,” Bon Jovi said. “And that conclusion is simply this: we are all inextricably bound together. We are interdependent.”

    "None of us achieve in life solely due to our own efforts - the arts are the very definition of interdependence."

    The ceremony was hosted by comedian Wanda Sykes and featured musical performances by Estelle, the All-American Rejects and Jon Batiste. Estelle lit up the room with her version of the Bon Jovi classic “Livin’ on a Prayer.” Sen. Cory Booker and sister Sister Mary Scullion, who has worked with Bon Jovi’s Soul Foundation, attended.

    "That recognition of our interdependence was imparted to me by my parents and an early role model in my life — a neighbor that I had growing up. His name was Al Parinello," Bon Jovi recalled of his days in Sayreville. "He was a husband, a father and a guitar player. Thanks to his kindness and interest in me, I was able to take a broken acoustic guitar to his basement and learn to play a song. His faith in me, along with the occasional ‘kick in my butt’ when I wouldn’t practice, was the first spark in what eventually became my career.

    "Al didn’t have to do what he did. He wasn’t in it for the glory, or the fame, or the riches. He simply loved music and his generous heart told him to share that passion with others. He passed in 1995 and to this day I have Al’s initials carved into my guitar as a reminder that a gift is meant to be shared."

    Bon Jovi and the Jon Bon Jovi Soul Foundation’s work in Philadelphia includes supporting Project H.O.M.E., the Covenant House and the Angel Network, the philanthropic organization founded by Marian Anderson Award recipient Oprah Winfrey.

    Bon Jovi’s philanthropy at the Jersey Shore includes a donation of $125,000 to the Sea Bright Fire Department after superstorm Sandy and a $1 million donation to the New Jersey Hurricane Sandy Relief Fund.

    He and his wife, Dorothea Bongiovi, created JBJ Soul Kitchen soup kitchen, where diners contribute either volunteer hours or a minimum donation for their meals.

    Dorothea Bongiovi, who attended the ceremony with Jon, and members of the Soul Kitchen staff recently donated lunches to volunteers helping to rebuild Union Beach, which is still recovering from superstorm Sandy.

    On the political end, Bon Jovi recently lent his support to an initiative created by Philip Murphy, the former U.S. ambassador to Germany, to rebuild the state’s middle class called New Start New Jersey.

    Past recipients of the Anderson award include Harry Belafonte,Gregory Peck, Elizabeth Taylor, Quincy Jones, Danny Glover, Oprah Winfrey, Ruby Dee and Ossie Davis, Sidney Poitier, Richard Gere, Maya Angelou, Norman Lear, Bill Cosby and Mia Farrow.

    Anderson, a Philadelphia native, opened new avenues of performance for African-American vocalists in her lifetime. She was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1963.


    (Charles Fox, philly.com)

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  • Hundreds turn out as Bon Jovi receives Marian Anderson Award

    By Aubrey Whelan, (Philly.com)

    Hundreds feted New Jersey-born rock star and philanthropist Jon Bon Jovi at a Kimmel Center gala Tuesday night, where he accepted the Marian Anderson Award for his music and charity work.

    The award is given to entertainers who have “contributed to our society in a singular manner,” event organizers said. They highlighted Bon Jovi’s music and commitment to charity, including his work with programs in the Philadelphia area and beyond.


    Bon Jovi took the stage to a standing ovation about 10:30. “I’m deeply humbled to accept this award,” he said, “and I do so fully aware of the rich and the powerful legacy of this honor.”

    The award is named for the late African American contralto and South Philadelphia High School graduate, who was celebrated as a singer of classical music and spirituals and who, when she encountered racial intolerance, gracefully fought for social justice.

    Saying he never had to face the struggles Anderson endured, Bon Jovi noted: “I was, in fact, born in suburban New Jersey in 1962.”

    He exhorted the crowd: “Let us draw inspiration from those that have come before us to do the work we are called to do.”

    Earlier, a host of celebrities and politicians sang Bon Jovi’s praises. The comedian Wanda Sykes said Bon Jovi excels at everything he does: “Music, acting, good hair.”

    She drew laughs with a reference to Philadelphia’s marijuana-decriminalization law: “Thanks to Mayor Nutter, we’re all carrying a little bit of weed around with us now.”

    Later in the evening, Nutter responded: “There’s nothing like being called out by Wanda Sykes.”

    He hailed Bon Jovi as “really just a wonderful man” and a “great artist.”

    An early no-show was Sen. Cory A. Booker (D., N.J.), a former Newark mayor. “If he was Mayor Booker, he would have been here,” Sykes joked.

    Booker arrived about 10. Explaining his lateness, he quipped: “I had to save Wanda from a fire backstage.”

    In a serious vein, Booker said Marian Anderson’s groundbreaking 1939 concert at the Lincoln Memorial was a seminal moment in American history.

    Of Bon Jovi, Booker said: “It is a true artist who has courage and creativity in their passion.”

    Sister Mary Scullion of Philadelphia’s Project HOME said Bon Jovi “calls us to live out the American dream - to work for what our country can and should be.”

    Bon Jovi, who rose to prominence with his band, Bon Jovi, in the 1980s, has become known in recent years for his charity work. He chairs the Jon Bon Jovi Soul Foundation, which deals with hunger and homelessness, and has partnered with Project HOME.

    Proceeds from Tuesday’s gala will support the Young Artist Study Grant Program, which helps high school artists and musicians in financial need. One recipient, violinist Sean Bennett, performed at the gala.

    Check out these photos from the Marian Anderson Award gala (credit Charles Fox):





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  • Bon Jovi to receive humanitarian award

    By Alfred Lubrano, (Philly.com)

    Jon Bon Jovi wrote “Runaway,” the song that launched his rock-star career, in 1980 as he rode a bus in Manhattan past homeless young runaways near Covenant House, the national organization that aids unmoored youth.

    “It could have been me,” Bon Jovi told an audience at a fund-raiser for Covenant House Pennsylvania more than 30 years later. “But something else saved me. It was that song.”


    (Photo by: Clem Murray / Staff Photographer)

    A staple of radio and the concert stage for decades, Bon Jovi, 52, is also a philanthropist who will be the 2014 recipient of Philadelphia’s Marian Anderson Award at the Kimmel Center on Tuesday.

    The award, whose past recipients include Maya Angelou, Oprah Winfrey, and Sidney Poitier, honors artists who are also humanitarians. It is named after Anderson, an African American native of Philadelphia born in 1897 who was renowned for her singing voice as well as her advocacy for civil and human rights.

    Bon Jovi lives in Middletown, N.J., but spends significant time helping the homeless and impoverished in Philadelphia and Camden, among other places.

    The singer’s work within the region figured into the calculus of his being chosen for the award.

    "We wanted to single out an artist whose work is not only global, but also deeply invested here in Philadelphia," said Nina Tinari, Anderson Award board chair. "This marks the first time that we have looked at generosity to the city and region as part of our search."

    These days, Bon Jovi has the freedom to give full voice to that generosity after decades of laboring in rock and roll with the Grammy Award-winning band that bears his name - a crew that has sold more than 130 million albums and played nearly 3,000 concerts in front of 37.5 million fans.

    Also an actor and producer, Bon Jovi has been dedicating more of his energies in recent years to helping others.

    "It would have been a life unfulfilled if the 52-year-old was on the same journey that the 21-year-old had been on," Bon Jovi said in a telephone interview last week. "I just have chosen to become more and more involved."

    That involvement led him to create the Center City-based Jon Bon Jovi (JBJ) Soul Foundation, established in 2006 to focus on issues of homelessness, affordable housing, and hunger, said Mimi Box, the foundation’s executive director and a former chief financial officer of the Philadelphia Eagles. She also served in the same capacity for the Philadelphia Soul, the arena football team that Bon Jovi once co-owned.

    "I’m by no means a Mimi Box, God bless her," said Bon Jovi, who grew up in a working-class family untouched by poverty. "But I’m certainly not sitting on the sidelines, either. Our foundation will continue to be a big part of my daily life."

    The foundation has provided funding for 400 apartments, shelter beds, and affordable housing units for homeless and low-income people, Box said. It has helped the victims of Hurricane Sandy as well as Hurricane Katrina, and has created homes for people from Georgia to California.

    The Soul Foundation also has received a great deal of attention for its JBJ Soul Kitchen in Red Bank, N.J., an eatery friendly to low-income diners. People eat there in exchange for volunteer work in the restaurant, or for a minimum donation.

    Bon Jovi told the story of a 12-year-old boy who swept the restaurant floors one day, earning a certificate to return with his family.

    "They came dressed in their Sunday best," Bon Jovi said, "and the boy had such pride because he fed his whole family."

    In Philadelphia, the foundation is noted for donating more than $2 million to Project HOME, cofounded by Sister Mary Scullion, to aid the city’s homeless.

    Much of that money underwrote the JBJ Soul Homes, 51 units of affordable housing in Fairmount, Scullion said.

    "Jon gets involved," said Scullion, whom Bon Jovi calls his "patron saint." "Oh, my God, he’s an amazing human being, so incredibly thoughtful, persistent, and generous."

    The story of how Bon Jovi and Scullion formed their alliance - as vibrant a mutual-admiration relationship as could exist between a nun and a rock star - is a well-known tale among advocates:

    Up in his Ritz-Carlton hotel room in Center City after a concert one winter night, Bon Jovi saw a homeless man lying on a grate near City Hall.

    "What can I do?" Bon Jovi asked himself.

    He dispatched a trusted friend to find someone he could partner with to help.

    "He came back with the Michael Jordan of the issue," Bon Jovi said.

    Scullion said she gets teased for serving Christ by hanging out with a big-time rocker. “People don’t believe it,” she said, laughing. “It is unusual.”

    While many celebrities lend their names to worthwhile causes, Bon Jovi “doesn’t just plunk money down and disappear; he’s consistently engaged,” said Laura Otten, director of the Nonprofit Center at La Salle University.

    "Among celebrities, there are divas in every crowd," she said, "but his reputation is that he’s not a diva at all. He’s very much about the philanthropy."

    The singer is smart enough not to go it alone, and seeks out “great partners,” said Katherina Rosqueta, founding executive director of the Center for High Impact Philanthropy at the University of Pennsylvania.

    One partner, Pilar Hogan, director of a Camden neighborhood revitalization group known as St. Joseph’s Carpenter Society, said she’s constantly surprised by Bon Jovi’s commitment. In Camden, he has contributed money to renovate homes for low-income families and has underwritten projects to serve the homeless.

    Hogan is also impressed that the rock star asks to meet the people he’s helping, away from cameras.

    "He has a real interest to make changes in others’ lives," Hogan said.

    John Ducoff, executive director of Covenant House Pennsylvania, agreed, saying he’s seen Bon Jovi quietly encourage young people who have been helped by his agency.

    "He meets with kids who’ve been runaways, homeless, or survivors of human trafficking," Ducoff said. "He gets to know them out of the limelight."

    One such person, Takeia Clark, now lives at JBJ Soul Homes after having been homeless in Philadelphia. She is from Paoli, but won’t discuss the problems that sent her onto the streets.

    "When I’m here at JBJ, I feel safe and stable," said Clark, who now works as a cashier at a North Philadelphia Walmart. "I’m grateful for Jon Bon Jovi, and I would love to help other people like he helped me."

    Then Clark, who said she’s met with Bon Jovi a couple of times, added with a smile: “He’s really nice, but I didn’t know he was a rock star,” since she’s 22 and listens to other music.

    Bon Jovi doesn’t hold it against her, Clark said.

    People like Clark are important to Bon Jovi, Ducoff said, because of those runaways he saw from the bus as he was writing his song when he was just a kid himself.”He’s connected his journey in music - and his first big break - with the journeys those kids were on,” Ducoff said. “My sense is what he saw 30 years ago has really resonated with him.”

    To learn more, please visit www.marianandersonaward.org.

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