The Warren Haynes Christmas Jam is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year. Over the past three decades, the annual benefit concert and the W & S Foundation have raised over $2.3 million for Habitat for Humanity, which has built 40 homes in the Asheville area thanks to its partnership with Warren Haynes over the past decade.
The partnership between Warren Haynes and Habitat was forged by Kent “Doobe” Doobrow, the Southeast gear representative for Merrell.
For the past 10 years, Doobrow and Merrell, along with Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity and the W & S Foundation, have organized and supported the Before the Jam…Lend a Hand project, where volunteers help build homes with Habitat for Humanity in Warren Haynes’ home town of Asheville, N.C., a few days before the Christmas Jam.
The Before the Jam…Lend a Hand project has become a central part of the Warren Haynes Christmas Jam experience. Volunteers from all over the country come to Asheville to help build houses on the Thursday and Friday before the annual Christmas Jam on Saturday evening.
So many people sign up that quotas have to be placed on the number of volunteers. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration limits the number of volunteers on a construction site due to safety regulations.
The Before the Jam…Lend a Hand project is now in its eleventh year. “I’ve met some amazing people through this event,” says Doobrow. “Many volunteers use this experience to join Habitat for Humanity projects in their home towns. Some have even organized their own concerts to support Habitat, just like Warren Haynes has done.”
An Asheville native, Warren Haynes has began organizing the Christmas Jam as a way to support affordable housing in his home town. Proceeds from the concert go to the Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity. Donations from the Christmas Jam have helped fund the purchase and construction of an entire subdivision in Asheville called Hudson Hills, named after Warren Haynes’ son Hudson.
“It takes a special person to come a few days early and volunteer their time and energy building houses, often in brutal weather,” says Doobrow. “Amazingly, folks come from all over the world to be a part of these home building crews. It’s inspiring to be a small part of it.”
Doobrow also hopes that volunteers and other Jam attendees “will take this spirit of giving back and bring it to their own communities.”
Not surprisingly, Doobrow was named Merrell’s Rep of the Year for organizing Before the Jam, Lend a Hand and other charitable events across the region. Doobrow also coordinates a partnership between Merrell and Mast General Store to give away a backpack full of food to families in need for every pair of Merrell shoes sold during a two-week period each fall. The program is in its 10th year, and they have donated around 5,000 backpacks of food each year.
“Our backpack program fills a need, but it only scratches the surface,” says Doobrow. “Food banks need a lot more support. My hope is that our program will inspire other brands—even competitors—to do something similar. We’re all in this together.”