The James River High School gym was converted into a concert venue for Sunday night’s Nashville Night with Matthew Ramsey and four other songwriters. Old Dominion’s band crew transformed the gym Sunday and had the gear dismantled and loaded back in a tractor-trailer right after the concert.
Photo by Ed McCoy

The James River High School gym was converted into a small concert hall for Sunday night’s eighth Nashville Night fundraiser and it allowed more than 1,000 people to enjoy the “songwriters’ round” that is organized by Buchanan native and JRHS graduate Matthew Ramsey.

Ramsey, the lead singer in the country music band Old Dominion, was again joined by four other songwriters (including one fellow Old Dominion member) who now have their roots in Nashville where they have provided the country music world with a number of top country songs, including several No. 1 hits.

The concert was first organized to raise money for the Buchanan Area Ministerial Association’s Food Pantry, and as the songwriters’ and Old Dominion’s  popularity have grown since the first concert in Buchanan Theatre in 2011, so have the proceeds from the concerts— to the point that Ramsey announced Sunday night the formation of the My Hometown Fund that will be administered through the Foundation of the Roanoke Valley.

“We’ve already raised about $50,000,” Ramsey told the crowd. “The money’s going right to the community and we’re going to keep adding to the pile.”

“Matt and I both feel a strong bond to Botetourt and want to give back to the community that not only supported us growing up but that contributed to who we are today,” Matthew’s wife Sara Ramsey explained in an email. “The idea for the fund grew out of our love for Botetourt and the surrounding communities.  Our focus is Botetourt County, however, the fund will not be restricted to only Botetourt. We want to support other rural communities as well that are similar in need and resources to Botetourt.”

Details on how the My Hometown Fund grant applications and what organizations will be eligible are still being finalized, Sara Ramsey explained.

But people can contribute to growing the fund now through Foundation of the Roanoke Valley’s website.

Go to foundationforroanokevalley.org and selecting the “Donate Now” option.  You can fill in a few fields and specify the My Hometown Fund under Other, Ramsey said.

“We are excited to partner with the community foundation that has been in existence supporting these communities. We feel that this partnership will allow the money to be used most efficiently as we will be able to use their infrastructure to support the fund administration and their local expertise from working in this area since 1988,” she continued.

Foundation for Roanoke Valley was established in 1988 to help individuals, families. nonprofit organizations and others establish permanent charitable legacies. Through a named fund within the foundation, donors are able to carry out their objectives in an efficient and effective manner, according to its website.

The community foundation works to connect philanthropic resources with important community needs. It administers over 320 endowed funds. It has $64 million in outright assets and $85 million in future estate commitments, and through those endowed funds awards in excess of $3.5 million in grants annually.

Ramsey and fellow Old Dominion member Trevor Rosen performed the night before at a Roanoke concert and left Monday for Europe. Josh Osborne, Matt Jenkins and Shane McAnally rounded out the songwriters. Osborne noted during the concert that McAnally flew in from the West Coast the night before for the concert and Jenkins flew in from Nashville.

Ramsey and the other songwriters told the audience they’d be back again next year.

The move from the school’s auditorium to the gym doubled the seating capacity. The gym’s conversion to a concert hall was remarkable. Ramsey said the Old Dominion stage and sound crew set up the concert, hung lights and speakers on Sunday then packed it all back in tractor-trailers after the concert Sunday night (with help from some members of the JRHS football team) to head back to Nashville.

Ramsey got two welcomes from local dignitaries. Del. Terry Austin presented Ramsey and Old Dominion with a 2017 joint resolution from the Virginia House of Delegates and Senate recognizing the band and its members for their accomplishments in country music and for carrying the name Old Dominion to the world.

Buchanan Mayor Craig Bryant and Town Council members also presented Ramsey with a Key to the Town and acknowledged his and the songwriters’ support for the community.

Folks who had purchased center section reserved seats were able to participate in a meet and greet following the concert where they got to meet and take pictures with the songwriters.

— Ed McCoy

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