December in the metro also means it’s time for Toy Drive for Pine Ridge events. Local musician Larry (Lash LaRue) Dunn started the Toy Drive for Pine Ridge in 2003 as a way of giving back to the Lakota community on the Pine Ridge reservation. Dunn’s pursuit of Lakota spiritual traditions in the previous years led to his efforts to bring holiday joy to the reservation’s children. Lakota spiritual practices include an emphasis on giving back to the community.

What began as one evening of music at the now defunct Mick’s in Benson and a pickup-truck load of toys for the reservation has blossomed into multiple events and an expanded scope. The emergency propane fund has become an important part of the Toy Drive’s fundraising efforts. South Dakota winters are bitterly cold. The fact that many homes are poorly insulated and only heated by propane stoves or firewood can make winter a deadly time for many, particularly the elders. It’s not unusual for someone to freeze to death due to lack of heating fuel on the reservation, just a day’s drive from Omaha. With high rates of poverty, it’s also not unusual to hear of families having to choose between food or fuel.

As the Toy Drive has grown with more events and more funds raised, Dunn has been able to expand the drive beyond toys and the emergency heating fund to include “providing resources to a medical clinic on the reservation, educational resources for schools [and] resources for suicide prevention groups,” according to the Toy Drive website. The Toy Drive for Pine Ridge is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. Another reason these efforts are so important is that, as the website points out, “the U.S. Census Bureau and BIA list Pine Ridge as the most poverty-stricken area in the United States.”

You can find out more or make a donation anytime at toydriveforpineridge.org where you can also specify if you want your donation to go toward toys, fuel or other resources. The Toy Drive’s Facebook page at facebook.com/toydriveforpineridge is updated more frequently and will have the first news on this year’s events. Currently the schedule includes the annual live radio show with music and information on Rick Galusha’s P.S. Blues radio show Sunday, Dec. 5, 9 a.m.-noon, on 89.7 FM, The River. A live event will be broadcast from The Reverb Lounge in Benson. Check  facebook.com/psblues for updates and performers. The Reverb event is free and open to the public and usually offers quite a social occasion for local blues / Americana musicians and fans.

The club fundraising events happen Friday, Dec. 3, 9 p.m., when the Toy Drive is at The Waiting Room with music from Dunn’s longtime band The Mercurys plus Vago. Then Sunday, Dec. 5, starting at 3 p.m., the BSO lends a hand with a show at Stocks ‘n’ Bonds with The Zoo Bar All-Stars, BSO All-Stars plus Héctor Anchondo solo. Admission to each show is $10 or a new, unwrapped toy of equal or greater value.

“BSO Presents” Shows Need You
The BSO Presents shows are still being finalized for December. Follow facebook.com/bluessocietyofomaha and omahablues.com for the latest updates. Shows include Texas guitarist Rocky Athas at Stocks ‘n’ Bonds Thursday, Dec. 9, 6-9 p.m. WRITER’S NOTE: The Rocky Athas show has been cancelled by the artist. The BSO also has a hand in holiday jams at The B. Bar Thursday, Dec. 23, and Thursday, Dec. 30, 6-9 p.m., with guest hosts.
Also, Thursday, Dec. 30, 6-9 p.m. the BSO will host an IBC send-off party at Stocks ‘n’ Bonds for the BSO IBC participants Stan & the Chain Gang, Nebraska Jr. and youth showcase band Us and Them Blues Band.

“The Blues Society of Omaha has seen attendance at our shows decrease by 50% since the pandemic began,” Terry Sedivy, BSO talent booker said via email. “We know that some folks still don’t feel comfortable going out, or have just gotten out of the habit. But if you still feel live music is meaningful, we would encourage anyone to buy a BSO membership, buy a concert ticket in advance or buy a CD from an artist website. Venues, musicians and the service industry that takes care of you are desperately in need of your support.”

Getting Out
For December and January issues, the deadlines hit early so the paper can be printed and distributed on time. This means there are lots of holes in the performance and venue calendars as this column gets put together. Watch your favorite venue and band sites for updates so you don’t miss out. Here are a few early highlights scheduled at deadline time.

Phenomenal blues artist Sue Foley performs at Lincoln’s Zoo Bar Saturday, Dec. 4, 5 p.m. Advance tickets are recommended and available at ticketweb.com. Foley has a brand new CD, Pinky’s Blues. Watch facebook.com/zoobarblues and zoobar.com for December show announcements.
The Zoo has also added a pop-up show with Indigenous Wednesday, Dec. 8, 6-9 p.m. Other December shows have been added to the schedule including two New Year’s Eve shows. The Zoo Bar will host The Bel Airs for a 5-8 p.m. early show. Josh Hoyer & Soul Colossal will go on at 9:30 p.m. to rock in the New Year.

Acclaimed Austin bluesman Ray Bonneville performs for a Sunday Roadhouse show at Reverb Lounge Sunday, Dec. 5, 5 p.m. See details at sundayroadhouse.com.

Sunday, Dec. 12, 8 p.m., sensational roots musician JD McPherson brings “SOCKS: A Rock N’ Roll Christmas Tour” to The Waiting Room. Outstanding Chicago guitarist Joel Patterson is also on the tour.

Larry Dunn with 2021 toy drive toy mascot
Larry Dunn and last year’s toy mascot paused for a selfie as they started their journey to deliver toys gathered for 2020’s Toy Drive for Pine Ridge. Photo from facebook.com/toydriveforpineridge.

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