It was an unremarkable day in December. It could have been a Monday. It could have been a Thursday. It could have been a Saturday. The day wasn’t relevant; there was nothing exceptional about this day. However, the thing this day inspired was quite relevant.
Mark Benton was sitting in his apartment in Canyon, Texas. He wasn’t doing anything out of the ordinary. He was merely sitting in his living room watching the Today Show.
On that particular morning, a story featured a young boy who had established a charity. His charity had unexpectedly grown into something much bigger. It became so big that it led to building hospitals in Africa.
Mark thought to himself, “If he can do it, I can do it.” This impression sparked the concept that would later become known as Rock City Rescue.
Mark set forth with a distinct cause weighing heavily on his mind – the homeless. “It’s become a forgotten problem in America,” he said. Mark knew that the problem wasn’t only national, but local. In the city of Amarillo alone, it is estimated that there is a homeless population of at least 1,000 men, women and children.
Mark began extensive research on all of the homeless shelters in the area. He came across Faith City Ministries and found he wanted to learn more about its operations. “I called and asked them what they’re about,” Mark said.
He learned that Faith City doesn’t give hand-outs, but utilizes a program that “requires people to help themselves.” With this, Mark had found the candidate to be the benefactor of his charity.
“I don’t know how he knew about us,” Executive Director Jena Taylor said, “but he contacted me and told me what he wanted to do.”
Jena said that, initially, she was “dubious,” but decided that Faith City Ministries “belongs to the whole community.” With Faith City’s blessing, Mark pressed forward.
Mark has always had a love of music. “I know a lot of bands,” he said. “Live music is big here.” With this awareness, he took the next step toward forming his new charity project.
“I called some of the bands I know,” he said. “I told them they weren’t going to get paid.” Mark explained that he wanted to do this solely to raise money for Faith City Ministries. “Overwhelmingly,” he said, “the bands said yes.”
“I was pretty stoked,” musician Tyson Taylor said. “I would finally have a chance to use my powers for good.” Tyson said money is never a personal motivation for playing music. “I just love doing it,” he said. “It’s nice to be able to give back by doing something I love.”
Now that Mark had musicians lined up, he began organizing. The event needed a name. After brainstorming, Mark had an idea – Rock City Rescue. “The name has no real significance,” he said, “but the idea of rock ‘n roll coming to the rescue was very appealing.”
After arriving on a name, Mark secured Burberry’s, today´s Wildcard, as the venue and a date of March 20, 2008. When verything was set, Mark began promotion.
Tyson designed posters and Jena helped print them. Mark, Tyson and the other bands hung posters up all over Amarillo and Canyon.
Mark also utilized social media. “MySpace was big back then,” he said. Word of mouth also helped get the word out. “Part of it is hoping you know the right people,” he said.
The day finally came and so did the nerves. “Mark was as nervous as a cat,” Jena said.
“I didn’t know what I had gotten myself into,” Mark said. But once the show began, the nerves relented and Mark started to feel more at ease. And he wasn’t the only one.
“It felt really good,” Tyson said. “It was nice to see people of different musical backgrounds come together and play a show for a common cause.”
During the concert, Jena was given the opportunity to speak about Faith City Ministries and its cause. “The audience was very receptive of what I had to say,” she said. “That or they were just very kind.”
“I didn’t know what to expect,” Mark said. “We raised just under a thousand dollars.” Mark was expecting to raise more, but after delivering the money to Faith City Ministries, he felt so good that he was “high on that feeling for months.”
The following year, Mark took what he learned the previous year and used it. “I put more work into it,” he said. “I didn’t rely on word of mouth so much, but we went crazy with posters.”
Rock City Rescue II was held at Burberry’s on March 26, 2009. The night of the event came, and with it came a blizzard. In spite of the blustery snow, there was a good turnout – “more than double” the previous year.
“It’s always a learning experience,” Mark said. But the biggest learning experience thus far was that of Rock City Rescue III. “There were circumstances that were out of our control,” Tyson said. The event was being held at a different venue, which was found to be in code violation by the Amarillo Fire Department just days before the concert was to take place on March 27.
Mark expressed his concern in front of the city commission and the fire marshal gave the venue a chance to correct the issues for reinspection. The venue passed inspection and Rock City Rescue was allowed to go on.
The night of the concert brought unforeseen difficulties. “The sound guy wasn’t ready at all,” Tyson said. The sound check had run so long that one band wasn’t even able to play its set. On top of the sound issues, the venue didn’t seem to attract quite the crowd that Burberry’s had.
After the night came to an end, Mark said “That’s it, I’m done.” But he had a change of heart after giving the money to Faith City. “Jena deserves all the credit; she’s an inspiration,” he said. “She was so grateful.”
In light of the turmoil Rock City Rescue III endured, it had once again more than doubled the proceeds from the year before.
While the money is beneficial, Jena believes that the attention Rock City Rescue brings to Faith City Ministries is equally important. “Mark brings attention to a generation that might not be aware of us otherwise,” she said. “He brings attention to us in a way they can relate to.”
Jena said that, because of preconceived notions, it is important for her to help the community understand the homeless. She said the “life of the homeless is the most complicated.” Mark continues to help relay this message.
“Mark is an incredibly talented individual with unlimited potential,” Jena said. “He has a big heart.” Jena feels that it takes someone “remarkable” to orchestrate something like Rock City Rescue.
Mark has now gone back to the drawing board for Rock City Rescue IV. He is considering a “comedy show with maybe two bands.” Because of scheduling conflicts, Rock City Rescue isn’t being held in March this year. Instead, Mark intends to organize the next benefit over the summer and hold it in the fall.
“Everyone has the need to be noble,” Jena said. “They just forget that’s what they’re here for.” Nobility is something Mark doesn’t lack. “After doing this [non-profit work], I want to do it as a career,” he said. “I’d really like to see it keep going.”