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VOL. 43 | NO. 51 | Friday, December 20, 2019

Music community helps Huckeba pack in aid

By Tim Ghianni

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John Prine and his wife, Fiona, became aware of Huckeba’s work via her Amazon wish list.

-- Photo By Mark Humphrey | Ap Photo

John and Fiona Prine love Stacie Huckeba … especially her grassroots, basically unheralded and living-room-centered campaign to help the homeless make it through December. And the rest of the year, too.

“We are always happy to support the work that Stacie does for the homeless community in Nashville, particularly since she does have a one-on-one relationship with a lot of these people who find themselves in such unfortunate circumstances,” Fiona Prine says.

“You can quote John on that, since we feel the same way,” she says of her iconic singer-songwriter husband (“The Tree of Forgiveness” is just one of a career’s worth of great albums) of almost unmatched word-power and a full case of sensitivity and generosity. (Need a refresher? Listen to 1971’s “Sam Stone” among the greatest of American folk songs.)

The Prines are key members of the music community that helps Stacie in her efforts to bring Christmas joy of some sort to the homeless, sustain that aid through the cold months and reassess the needs during the warmer months.

Rod Picott, the singer-songwriter and author (“Out Past the Wires” album and book), has been enlisted for a sixth year as Stacie’s pack-mule, hauling the backpacks filled with food and personal supplies into the camps. His role is even more crucial this year, as Stacie has been told that the injuries from an auto accident restrict her from lifting more than 10 pounds.

That’s where the Prines came into the picture. A photograph of Stacie drew Fiona Prine to the Amazon wish list, and she and John ordered enough items to allow Stacie to fill 50 backpacks. She had planned to scale back to 24 due to her injuries.

“Now we are going full bore,” said Stacie after she found out what the Prines had done.

“I guess our hope is that with your piece coming out, it will create more awareness of the work she does,” Fiona Prine tells this writer. “It’s at the fundamental level of helping people.

“She doesn’t have a big organization. She does it really by herself.”

John and Fiona also encouraged Stacie to put together another wish list to fill another 50 backpacks, not just at Christmas and in the winter, but year-round.

“We saw she had gathered an impressive amount of these things for these people,” Fiona says. “It’s a meaningful, well-thought-out list. It shows Stacie knows these people individually … she knows firsthand what they need when they are in this unfortunate situation of trying to live on the street.

“John and I are so grateful for what we have in our lives, the abundance of what we have.”

Stacie’s just grateful for the Prines: “Fiona loves it because it’s just me and my friends and social media.”

“It’s grown by leaps and bounds over the years,” Picott adds.

“We first made this little trip around and visited the homeless camps, then we brought stuff around (that they found out was needed),” he says of the mission’s simple origins.

“It was incredibly moving and really eye-opening. These people are living in places that are just out of your eyesight,” he points out. “They are barely holding on, a lot of them.

“It’s a huge range of people, struggling with mental difficulties and addiction problems and those who don’t seem to have profound difficulties and have fallen through the cracks, because they can’t meet the requirements of some of the services out in Nashville.”

Picott says his job is simple. “My role is sort of to escort her. A couple of the camps are a little bit scary, to be honest.

“She needs somebody to be with her to make sure she’s protected and everything. I’m not a huge guy, so I’m not a threat. I look tougher than I am.

“I sort of stay neutral, and I let her do the talking unless someone tries to intervene.”

He adds his friend knows “a lot of folks by name at this point. It’s a tough thing to do. It’s a very emotional undertaking to see how these people are doing and barely surviving.

“It’s so eye-opening to see how many there are, and they form little communities. There will be a camp where they are all drinkers, one where drug use is going on, another where they are completely sober and then there are the solo people who can’t function in groups,” he says.

“It’s very, very sad, but it’s also sort of empowering to see how these people make it work in these little camp communities.”

Successful singer-songwriter and nice guy Will Hoge heaps praise on his friend, Stacie. “What’s most inspiring is she’s not out there begging the public. When she says she needs something, I do my best to rally support,” says the singer who is touring behind his current album, “My American Dream,” while working up a new album for next year.

“I kind of play Robin to her Batman,” he says. “I try to help with the collection of items, heaters, food, anything she needs.

“I think that her continued effort to really just humanize our homeless people here in town is something that is really beautiful to watch.”

Hoge says his exposure to the people in the camps and their needs sparks mood shifts. “It goes from anger and sadness to really being excited to be able to help.”

And, he says, Stacie is perfect for her mission. “I love her in that she is big and brash and outspoken about the things she likes and she doesn’t like. She is outspoken in trying to help people, to try to make things better for everybody.

“That bigness of heart is something I love about her. It’s contagious,” he says. “I find myself wanting to do more of that stuff.”

Aaron Lee Tasjan, another successful musician who finds fulfillment in helping his friend, says Stacie is exceptional as an ally and advocate for the homeless.

“I think Stacie has tremendous empathy and the idea of being able to walk a mile in somebody else’s shoes.

“She not only has that kind of sensitivity, she’s also sensitive to the idea that this is where these people live.

“You’re not only going into the woods, you are going into somebody’s house,” he explains. “She is so respectful. She’s a really thoughtful, empathetic person whose heart could not be more in the right place.”

As a traveling musician, he’s gone a big chunk of the year and appreciates the opportunity to help Stacie.

“I don’t think there’s anything that feels better than getting out of your own head-space and helping somebody out.

“Stacie is really amazing at bringing people together and building community,” he says, noting that he has learned much from going into the camps.

“Some of the places that we’re going are probably things that the police would like to break up. It helps to be a partner in crime,” Tasjan says.

“That’s just sort of the reality of what these people are facing in their life every day. It’s an incredible mountain to climb.”

“Stacie is what I would call one of the true foot soldiers in the selfless dedication to making your own community a better place for all who live there,” adds Tim Easton, when reached in Europe where he’s touring behind his latest album, “Exposition.”

“She is also an accomplished artist who uses her talent to better the lives of others,” adds Easton who annually gathers his musical family around him for an awareness- and fundraising video for SAFPAW, one of the two organizations that depend on Stacie’s grunt work.

“I believe we all have a civic duty to focus on our own neighborhoods and make them as good as we can. Stacie takes this to an inspirational level.”

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