House of Ruth fundraiser features Neil Young tribute

In a move we would all do well to emulate, a local man has countered the bruising and divisive just-completed election cycle with a sharp turn in the opposite direction.

Claremont’s Stu Olsen is spearheading a rocking fundraiser for House of Ruth on Saturday, December 3 featuring a wide array of local musicians paying tribute to Neil Young at the Black Watch Pub in Upland. The event gets underway at 8 p.m.

“I was just so disgusted with the bad feelings being thrown back and forth that I began to think that the only thing that was worth doing was direct, local positive action,” Mr. Olsen said. “And so I just began to cast around looking for something positive to do within the community.”

House of Ruth will have special tablets set up at the Black Watch for easy, on-the-spot donations.

“House of Ruth was the first name that came up with just about everybody I asked,” Mr. Olsen said. “So it seemed like a good cause to work for, and it was a good time to do it.”

In addition to the donations from patrons, the Black Watch Pub will be donating a portion of the night’s bar receipts to House of Ruth.

“I’m really appreciative,” said House of Ruth Director of Development Pat Bell. “It allows us to come out and have a good time, meet people in the community and enjoy some great music and know that everything’s going back to help us provide critical services to people who have been victimized by domestic violence.”

Statistically, one in four women is abused. “And when you have an audience, there might be people in the crowd that need help and don’t realize that help is available,” Ms. Bell explained. “So we’re going to have an information table set up with brochures and pamphlets, and our staff will be available to answer questions. So, not only do we hope to raise money for our cause, but we also hope to raise awareness. And if anybody needs help, we will be available to get them connected with House of Ruth.”

The charity directly assists 5,000 victims of domestic violence every year, mostly women and children, but some men as well. It has outreach offices in Ontario and Pomona and a shelter in a confidential location that houses some 500 people per year. Its educational arm reaches about 15,000 people yearly.

As for the choice to celebrate Canada’s venerable musical chameleon, Mr. Olsen said that was kind of an accident. The idea arose after Mr. Olsen was rehearsing with his band, The Deadly Feathers, and the group launched into several Neil Young classics. “We just kind of looked at each other and said, ‘Gee, we could do this all night.’ And that’s how that happened. The two ideas just kind of grew together.”

The event will consist of a core band—Mr. Olsen on guitar, Bob Pritchard on drums, Mickie Ellis Avila on bass and Darlene Luna on vocals—joined by several guest singers and musicians. The first set will feature classic acoustic tunes such as “Sugar Mountain,” “Heart of Gold” and “Needle and the Damage Done.” House of Ruth representatives will next give a brief presentation, and then the band will launch into a second set of Mr. Young’s well-known electric catalog, including “Cinnamon Girl,” “Powderfinger” and “Like a Hurricane.”

In addition to raising funds and awareness, House of Ruth will also be accepting new, unwrapped children’s and mothers’ holiday gifts at the event for its Holiday Store. Anyone interested in this should go to the House of Ruth’s website ( and click on How To Help, then Make a Donation.

“This would be a really good time to get involved in the community and put your hands on the problem and not just bitch about it on Facebook,” Mr. Olsen said. “My own role in this is not so much a fundraiser but as a musician committed to putting on a great rock show in order to give the very, very good fundraisers at House Of Ruth the best possible access to an audience.  And for the purely selfish joy of playing classic music with these wonderful musicians.”

Mr. Olsen, 55, is a professional photographer by trade. He was an active musician beginning in the mid-1980s, but stopped playing regularly in the early ‘90s. He recently began playing music again and has been encouraged by the rehearsals leading up to tomorrow’s show. 

“We’re having a great time,” Mr. Olsen said of the preparations for the show. “I’ve never had a band practice before where everybody hugged each other when it was done. And it’s great music.”

Ms. Bell was somewhat giddy when asked if she was looking forward to the musical component of the night. “Yes! I am a Neil Young fan!” she enthused. “I’ve got a couple of staff members that are so excited to work this event, and several board members that want to come as well. It’s kind of rooting out all the Neil Young fans in our pool. The rock ’n’ roll era comes forward!”

If you or anyone you know is being victimized by domestic violence, call House of Ruth’s 24-hour crisis hotline at (877) 988-5559. More information on House of Ruth is available at

Go to Facebook and search House of Ruth Benefit Show for a complete list of performers. The Black Watch Pub is at 497 N. Central Ave. #B, Upland. 

—Mick Rhodes


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