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INTERVIEW: John Kowalenko On The "Ladles Of Love" Telethon - A Benefit Concert For Local Food Pantries And Musicians

T.J. Clemente

Bad Company's Simon Kirke and G.E. Smith. (Courtesy Photo)

Art of Eating co-owner John Kowalenko is once again producing "Ladles of Love," a benefit concert and telethon on Thursday, May 20 that will showcase musicians, sponsors, radio and surprise guests. "Darius Narizzano and Saunders & Associates have stepped up to sponsor our shows this year. LTV, Michael Clark and his team are donating all the airtime, tech, studio, and knowledge," Kowalenko said. "30 percent of the generous donations will be divided among band members who have not been working due to these trying times, 30 percent supports venues, and 40 percent of the donations support East Hampton, Montauk, Amagansett, Sag Harbor, and Wainscott food pantries."

When asked to explain the genesis of the event, Kowalenko said, "It's a fundraiser for the local food pantries, East Hampton, Amagansett, Sag Harbor, Wainscott, Montauk. This is the first telethon that we are doing. 'Ladles of Love' was canceled last year because of COVID-19."

He continued, "I've got numerous acts playing pre-recorded music, all original tunes from the Stephen Talkhouse, Nancy Atlas with her crew, plus many special guests, like Mama Lee, Inda Eaton. The lineup will be shows in half an hour segments starting with, from the Stephen Talkhouse, session one with Nancy Atlas, Johnny Blood, Bret King, Rick Rosch, PJ Delia, Inda Eaton, Gene Casey, Joe Delia, Arno Hecht, Mama Lee and Rose. Nancy's original songs are all really amazing. Then from LTV Studios, session two with Taylor Barton, G.E. Smith, Simon Kirke [from Bad Company]. They are followed by a recorded show from the Bay Street Theater, session three, with Joe Lauro and The Hoodoo Loungers, and finally again at LTV Studio, session four, which will be what we call 'The One Special Song session.""

"In 2019, the 'Ladles of Love' was held at the Stephen Talkhouse, and the event raised $19,000. We are hoping to surpass that this year. 'Ladles of Lov'e was canceled in 2020 due to COVID, so in February 2021, when John started planning 'Ladles of Love,' he and I wanted to make sure it was done in the safest manner," Vicki M. Littman, East Hampton Food Pantry (EHFP) Chairperson, relayed. "So, this year it will be held virtually with a great lineup of talented musicians. The East Hampton Food Pantry relies on fundraisers like 'Ladle of Love' and as a board member of the EHFP, John Kowalenko has worked tirelessly in helping to raise money to ensure that our pantry can feed those in need. In 2020, the EHFP provided food for over 27,000 individuals."

Kowalenko emphasized, "The show is going to be on LTV, it's going to be on C-TV from Southampton, and it's going to broadcast over the internet live. There will be interviews in between the acts. The purpose is to raise money for the pantries and also helping their bands who have not been working for the last year. Over the years, they have always dedicated their time and music to help others, so it's only right to help them now in their time of need."

When asked why him, why this, Kowalenko shared a personal story. He noted, "When I was a kid, my dad died when I was eight. My mother had an extremely serious car accident and was in the hospital for nine months. Every week, people would come by with food and cans of change." He became very emotional and expressed how Long Island is a big fraternity that takes care of their own. He added, "Believe it or not, I was homeless one winter and lived in my van on a dead end in Bellport in 1973 for a couple of months. So again, people helped me, reached out. My business in Hampton Bays, a surf shop, had failed, it was a tough stretch. Now, I can help, so I do. You've got to give back when you can. Everybody needs to give a little bit. This is what I can do, so I am doing it."

"Ladles of Love" will air from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.

Interested viewers can tune into LTV Southampton cable or stream the telethon online. Donations may be made at easthamptonfoodpantry.org prior and during the show.

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