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Snowbird Jammers help Yuma's children
A group of retirees love to make music so much that they spend their winters jamming together and helping children in need.
They call themselves the Snowbird Jammers and they generously raise money for Yuma's uninsured children.
A decade ago the retired musicians thought they should be doing something to benefit their adopted winter home, said co-director Edna Metcalfe, a former winter visitor from Washington.
"Some think snowbirds are a nuisance and only cause traffic with so many people around," Metcalfe said. "This is our way of saying thanks for having us. We're not just a nuisance. We want to help, too."
The Snowbird Jammers decided to play together and raise funds for the School Health Care Program at Yuma Regional Medical Center. The program helps kids who have no medical coverage, with a large number referred by schools.
The first year the group raised about $1,200. This year the musicians raised more than $10,500.
"Every penny, every solitary penny, goes to the fund. If we have expenses, somebody pays for it. We're proud of this," Metcalfe said.
Last year the jammers also helped the Crossroads Mission. "They work with the homeless and rehab and they do so much with so little. It's amazing," Metcalfe said. "We enjoy helping them because not one of us jammers has gone to bed hungry."
The Snowbird Jammers began with about 50 musicians. They started getting so many calls, they decided to buy their own stage equipment, paid for by their own members.
The jammers now have more than 160 musicians, with more joining every year. Some members, like Metcalfe and her husband, Joe, started out as winter visitors and are now permanent residents.
"We're getting closer to 200 as we get more retirees," Metcalfe said. "We have a lot of professionals, all levels of talent. It's amazing how many jammers never touched an instrument before retiring and didn't know they had this hidden talent. They were busy working and raising children."
Each show features different musicians, depending on who is available. Nevertheless, Metcalfe said, the performance is fun and top-notch.
"We could have two of our musicians sit down and make it sound as if they've been playing together for years."
The Snowbird Jammers play "oldies but goodies" and western music, "songs you can sing and dance to," said Metcalfe, noting she occasionally sings and her husband plays the baritone ukulele.
The Snowbird Jammers play anywhere that will have them. They have performed at the American Legion, Disabled American Veterans and a number of restaurants and nursing homes.
"We have a couple of musicians who will do anything to play," Metcalfe said, laughing.
She said the jammers once played at a local Alzheimer's care center and the patients were "rolling their chairs, tapping their feet, nodding their heads, some were singing. They were responding when they don't respond to anything else."
Every year the Snowbird Jammers hold a "Big Jam," their biggest fundraiser of the year. This year it was held Feb. 3 at Post Auditorium. The event included a salute to the military, with a special ceremony honoring a Pearl Harbor survivor who attended in uniform and was presented with a certificate.
To inquire about booking or joining the Snowbird Jammers, call Metcalfe at 726-2727 or co-director Jim Kindle at 342-3800.
"It takes a lot of work preparing for a show and performing," Metcalfe said. "At the end of the night, we might be tired, but we have such a feeling of satisfaction because in some way we helped. I can't imagine being a child with asthma here in the desert and not having medical help."
The Snowbird Jammers are willing to help organizations with their fundraising efforts. "We'll provide the entertainment, two shows a day with 40 musicians. We'll play any songs you like," Metcalfe said.
Mara Knaub can be reached at email@example.com or 539-6856.