After more than 10 years of playing local shows and crooning for the crowds, Jessy Johnsen is ready to give back in a big way.
Johnsen, of the Jessy Johnsen Band, is teaming up with friend, local businesswoman and entrepreneur Jami Wade to bring awareness to food insecurity in Mid-Missouri through a "local ladies" arts and music showcase from 7-11 p.m. Saturday.
The evening showcase — which Johnsen likens to a street fair — on the 200 block of Madison Street will feature women in music, arts and small business. Women-owned businesses, including Rebel Tacos and Shrunken Head Tropic Lounge, will be on hand, and a variety of vendors will line the block where a handful of young, female singer/songwriters will cycle through 30-minute performances.
In essence, it's an event by women and for women.
For some vendors and performers, Johnsen said, it will be the first time they're selling their product or have the opportunity to share their music with a larger crowd. Johnsen said there's "not a lot of places besides bars" for young musicians to get exposure.
"I really wanted to showcase the younger artists," Johnsen said. "It's not really that they're not here, it's just there's really no place for them to play. That was my motivation."
That's where Wade came in. After a July 12 event Johnsen hosted at Gumbo Bottoms Ale House saw a higher turnout than expected, the two wanted a more organized approach to giving back.
"I wanted to put together a bigger event raising money (for) some kind of cause. I wanted to give back to the community," she said. "That's where Jami (Wade) came in with the Food Bank."
Hosts Johnsen, Shrunken Head Tropic Lounge and Gumbo Bottoms Ale House chose the Food Bank for Central & Northeast Missouri as their nonprofit recipient.
Wade has only been the regional coordinator at the Food Bank for roughly three months, but she's already organized a plethora of fundraising opportunities.
"I'm born and raised in Jefferson City, small business owner for a while, started a nonprofit, gave a movie theater to this town. I've been to every event. I've been to all of them," Wade said. "When I started this job at the Food Bank, I was like, 'Hey man, I go to all the events. What's your annual event?'"
They didn't have one — Wade said that was unacceptable.
Planning for this event was a little different than the rest, however. Wade and Johnsen easily found common ground and hoped to showcase women in business because, as Wade put it, "it's important to showcase women in business."
"As a woman in business for eight years it's harder for women in business," Wade said.
Portions of the event proceeds will go to benefit the Rape & Abuse Crisis Service, a Food Bank partner agency and organization Johnsen and Wade are especially passionate about supporting — and it fell in line with the women-centric theme.
RACS offers emergency shelter, counseling, a hotline, a place where domestic violence victims can feel safe, and more. In 2018, the Food Bank provided 2,997 pounds of food to RACS in Cole County, according to a 2018 Accomplishments Report.
"RACS was the one nonprofit where I donated my own money," Wade said. "I think as women, it's a nonprofit we absolutely support."
Wade said the event will be "100 percent education and entertainment."
Zach Paul, chief meteorologist at KRCG 13, will emcee the event, informing attendees in between musical acts of the Food Bank partner agencies and what they can do to help or where they can donate.
Showcasing women in business and arts while raising money for the Food Bank and its agencies — Johnsen said she doesn't think there's a better way.
And although Johnsen hesitated to label herself a mentor to the younger women playing at the event, Wade certainly thinks so.
"I think they absolutely look up to you," Wade said of Johnsen, adding, "You have a voice. People come to listen to you."
Johnsen said she's excited for the young performers to play on stage in front of a crowd, not only for the experience, but also for the life lesson it will bring.
"I think it's a good experience for them to have, to say, 'Hey, I helped with this.' A lot of them are younger girls. They're in the public school where they see Buddy Packs and things like that," she said. "For them to be able to say, 'I helped with that. I helped my community with that' — I think that's pretty cool."
Buddy Packs are bags containing two ready-to-eat entrees, a fruit cup, cereal with shelf-stable milk and a nutritional bar, according to the Food Bank website. They're distributed to elementary and upper-level schools through school pantries as a way to get healthy food to children reliant on free-or reduced-price lunches.
Five performers will take the stage Saturday evening: Effie Lillig, of Columbia; and Abigail Rose, Chloe Holloway and Paige Dow, all of Jefferson City, will play 30-minute sets. The Jessy Johnsen Band will complete the lineup.
"I hope this brings inspiration to them to continue to write their own music and keep getting themselves out there," Johnsen said.
Also at the event Saturday, T-shirts designed by local female tattoo artist Calli Loskill will be available for purchase or attendees can take a sip of a specially-made brew by Mother's Brewing Company to benefit the Food Bank.
Vendor fees, 10 percent of alcohol and food sales, and T-shirt sales will all go to benefit the Food Bank. Wade said she's shooting for around $2,000-$3,000 in profit. Although the event is free to the public, attendees wishing to purchase alcohol must buy a $3 wristband. Wade said donations for the Food Bank will also be accepted.
And while Johnsen knows there will be "lots of things that we're going to learn" from hosting the event, she's confident it won't be their last.
"This isn't going to be our only event," she said.