While an ominous and stormy sky loomed above NYC, a beacon of hope shined bright within the Lighthouse at Chelsea Piers.

WhyHunger, Harry Chapin’s incredible non-profit organization that “is a leader in building the movement to end hunger and poverty by connecting people to nutritious, affordable food and by supporting grassroots solutions that inspire self-reliance and community empowerment” held their annual charity event within the Lighthouse of Chelsea Piers in the lower west side of Manhattan.

The crowd there was an eclectic group, ranging from artists to musicians to company CEO’s, all on a mission to help end national and world hunger. Hillary Zuckerberg, the Director of Artists Against Hunger & Poverty at WhyHunger, noted that this was “her favorite event of the year,” and that she was specifically excited for the artists she arranged for tonight, gesturing towards a swanky looking Warren Hayes and the always stunning Grace Potter. Grace Potter was a specifically important guest this evening, since she was this years winner of the Harry Chapin Vanguard Award for her endless work towards defeating world hunger.

Following a fantastic performance of “Cats in the Cradle” by Harry Chapin’s brother Tom, Warren Haynes gave a heart-warming speech for the (as he proclaimed) “rock goddess” Grace Potter. Haynes made note of his skeptical attitude towards Potter when they first started touring years ago, but soon found that they were indeed “kindred spirits” and that “her influences and her tastes in music ran as deep as [his] own.”

Ms. Potter graciously accepted the Vanguard Award and gave an emotionally weighted speech about her life growing up in Vermont amongst farmers and entrepreneurs, the value of “putting your money where your mouth is, and putting your actions where your words are,” and the inspiration of Harry Chapin in both the music world and the philanthropical sphere. She ended her acceptance speech noting, “We are going to play a song for you guys…as you know we aren’t really brought to places like this to talk”.

Donning simply an acoustic guitar and two microphones, I (and the rest of the crowd) was pleasantly surprised when Warren played the opening notes to Fleetwood Mac’s “Gold Dust Woman” and Grace soon joined in with the harmonies. The two put on a powerful performance that radiated throughout the entire room despite playing a mere one song set. Warren’s guitar and Grace’s vocals didn’t miss a note and the intimate setting was truly the cherry on top for an evening that was a success in both musicianship and humanitarianism. Below are links to both the performance and the WhyHunger charity…please donate if you can.

– Ben Fortgang

[photo credit Diane Bondareff]