Inflatable snowmen and Christmas garland lined the walls of Alumni Hall on Sunday afternoon. Many of the students and community members made the $10 suggested donation as they filed past ushers.
At a table near the back, a bin was filled with raffle tickets. Ernie Joseph Fipps, known to friends as “Jo,” perused the aisles doing last minute sound-checks and announced the raffle prize.
Then the lights dimmed and the audience grew quiet. It was Fipp’s second annual Ernie Jo Christmas Spectacular, organized to benefit Middle Way House in Bloomington. Funds raised are expected to go toward Middle Way’s transitional housing, emergency shelter and day care services.
“Last year we did a smaller version of the event, but this year we had the idea to give it a reason for existing – like, why not do a fundraiser?” Fipps, an IU graduate, said before the show. “We picked Middle Way House because they were in need.”
Middle Way House, which provides support to those in Bloomington experiencing physical and sexual abuse, is looking for extra funding this winter due to budget cuts, according to program volunteer Korie Rice.
“Having lost a lot of their funding, they are definitely in need,” Rice said. “But Jo’s so passionate about this event. It’s nice to see.”
On the lineup Sunday night were IU’s Movement Exchange dance ensemble, Resting Pitch Face a capella group and two quartets from the Jacobs School of Music. The Boney Junes band of Evansville, Indiana, also came out to support the cause.
Resting Pitch Face entertained with holiday hits such as “Sleigh Ride” and “Baby Please Come Home.” A bassoon quartet seamlessly transitioned from Carol of the Bells to various Christmas carols and hymns and filled the hall with rich consonance.
Capping off the program was a student-written musical arranged by IU composition major Kenji Kuriyama. The Hoosier Pops Orchestra, illuminated by icicle lights above, provided accompaniment.
The musical acts on Sunday were interspersed with brief speeches from Middle Way House staff and volunteers.
“It means so much that you guys came out here and are supporting us tonight,” Middle Way House staff member Emily Milner said.
“It shows us that there are students who want to help, get involved, and make Bloomington a violence-free community — for that I am so grateful.”
Rice, a member of the mental-health organization U Bring Change 2 Mind, also stood to give a quick thanks to the audience and summarize mission.
“It’s known that 50 percent of women who have suffered from physical, sexual or emotional abuse will also suffer with mental illness,” Rice said. “Let’s help spread the word.”
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