He’s known simply as Doobie. Kent Doobrow followed the Grateful Dead for decades and loves music. He plays music himself in a celebrated band that performs at many outdoor industry events, and he attends most of the big music festivals in the region. But after years of dancing in the crowds with 80,000 others, he decided he wanted to get backstage.
Doobrow has represented outdoor gear companies for decades, and he realized that his gear connections might help him get closer to the music he loved. So one day, he approached the Grateful Dead and offered them free sunglasses.
“They loved them and wore them everywhere,” says Doobrow. “Probably half of the photographs ever taken of the Grateful Dead include one of the band members wearing the sunglasses I gave them.”
It turns out that musicians love outdoor gear, and they often don’t have the time or ability to get it while traveling or touring. Over the years, Doobrow has hooked up many big-name bands with everything from socks to backpacks.
For the past decade, as a representative for Merrell, Doobrow has deepened his connection between music and outdoor gear. He has forged a partnership between Merrell and Warren Haynes’ Christmas Jam to support 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., two 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.
Doobrow initially gave away free Merrell shoes to everyone who volunteered and paid for the shoes out of his own pocket.
“My goal was to get a shitload of volunteers to participate,” he says. “It worked—too well.”
So many people signed up that quotas had 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 tenth year, Doobrow and Merrell offer a raffle exclusively for volunteers where they give away hundreds of dollars worth of Merrell gear.Volunteers also received limited edition t-shirts designed with artwork from Dylan Haynes, a local Asheville artist and Warren Haynes’ nephew. Merrell also outfits the Habitat for Humanity house recipients head-to-toe in shoes, gear, and apparel.
“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 27 years ago as a way to support affordable housing in his home town. Proceeds from the concert go to the Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity. The Jam has raised more than $2 million for Habitat for Humanity and helped 36 families in need of decent, affordable housing. 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.”
On Friday, December 9, at 3 p.m., the public is invited to attend the Wall Raising (at 65 Taft Avenue, Asheville 28803). Warren Haynes and his wife will speak, and so will Doobrow. The house recipients will also be there to help raise the first wall of their new home.
Although the Christmas Jam is sold out, there are other ways to join the fun:
- There are still some volunteer slots available on Thursday, December 8th. Click here to see options and sign up.
- Attend Jam by Day and/or the Christmas Jam Art Show. Proceeds benefit Asheville Area Habitat.
- Raise a pint of Sierra Nevada Christmas Jam Ale! Proceeds support Asheville Area Habitat.
- If you’re attending the Jam, stop by the Habitat table to say hello, learn about programs, donate $1 to sign a stud wall which will be used in the construction of a Jam House, and enter to win a guitar.
- Donate to Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity by visiting org/donateonline. Select Christmas Jam in Area of Support.