"We started making music artist contacts," said Fernandez, vice-president for marketing and communications for the Grand Rapids-based family service agency.
"My first call was to Mark Schultz," he said of his inquiry of the popular Christian singer-songwriter. "I got three words into it and his agent said, 'We're in,'" Fernandez recalled.
The grand result of all the work was ten different music artists and guest presenters joining in for the April 14 unveiling of "Not Alone Live," an online concert benefitting Bethany's COVID-19 Emergency Fund.
Schultz, who himself was adopted, is an adoptive parent as well. He has partnered with Bethany and several adoption agencies throughout his two-decade recording career.
He performed two songs at the keyboard in the laid back setting of his family garage. One of his songs was "Everything to Me," with lyrics based on what he would tell his birth mother if he should ever meet her.
The artist roster includes Nicole C. Mullen, Dave Barnes, Jimmy Wayne and Matt Wertz among others. NFL star Kirk Cousins and country music artist Kimberly Schlapman of Little Big Town were among those offering personal endorsements and artist introductions.
The entire online video with all the artists and presenters runs more than 2 and a half hours. It's available on demand at https://bethany.org/campaigns/notalone-live
MAKING AN ARTIST CONNECTION
Fernandez noted that among Bethany's offices in 35 states, most of the spring fundraising events had to be postponed or cancelled due the coronavirus onset.
Many of those involved concerts with artists such as Schultz. "We asked how we could make up for those funds that weren't coming in," said the executive. "A lot of our branches were suggesting doing virtual events with a different strategy for each one - but that's complicated. So we thought of some all inclusive, big picture thing we could do (nationwide)."
Then began the work of contacting artists to see what they could put together.
Key in the process was Bethany's Nashville office – located in the heart of "music city."
Significant numbers of residents there are acquainted with, go to church with, or have another link to someone in the music industry.
"We were able to get (singer) Dave Barnes, who then put us in touch with other artists," said Fernandez of the subsequent chain of connections.
The Bethany executive was also able to bring singer Nicole C. Mullen on board. The music video for her new song "The God Who Sees" (co-written with Kathy Lee Gifford) is included in the virtual concert, fitting the event theme of "Not Alone."
Before his performance, singer Aswan North of the band Paper Tongues told his story of being orphaned at age two, and placed in a care facility before being adopted three years later by a North Carolina family.
In one segment, singer Kimberly Schapman of the country band Little Big Town appears with her family. Bethany assisted Schapman and her husband in the adoption of their second child.
GREATER NEEDS ALL AROUND
Just as contributions have decreased due to business uncertainty and unemployment brought on by COVID-19, Bethany's expenses have increased.
The virus outbreak has worsened the vulnerability of children and families already in high stress situations – such as kids in foster care families, dealing with substance abuse, refugees and unaccompanied minors.
Unanticipated new costs include hundreds of Zoom licenses, to enable virtual meetings and client consultations which must remain confidential. Bethany is also helping to supply extra cleaning and sanitary supplies to foster family homes and other client residences. "These are things we would have never even considered before," Fernandez added.
"When this (virus) is over we're anticipating an increase in the need of foster care homes, and we wonder about the impact of the isolation/quarantine period on domestic violence, for example," he noted.
RESULTS ARE PROMISING
The April 14 "Not Alone Live" was featured on numerous social media platforms including Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and Bethany's own website.
"We reached 36,000 unique visitors," he said of the online viewing numbers for the debut. Donations brought in by the initial presentation are part of an ongoing campaign, and breakout figures were not immediately available. But each online viewer now seeing the presentation is a potential contributor.
Kirk Cousins, pro-football quarterback and Holland Christian High School graduate, thanked viewers for doing their part in Bethany's efforts in the midst of difficult conditions. "God has a plan and he will use this to bring glory to Himself and for our good to develop us into the people we are to become," he said.
(Watch "Not Alone Live" at https://bethany.org/campaigns/notalone-live).