Fort Lauderdale resident Laura Florio is out to heal the lives of the city's homeless one peanut butter sandwich at a time. On Saturday night, her cause will get some celebrity jam.
The Peanut Butter & Jelly Project, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that Florio founded 16 months ago, will be the beneficiary of a concert by two nationally touring rock acts, Candlebox ("Far Behind" and "You") and Saliva ("Ladies and Gentlemen" and "Always"), at Revolution Live in downtown Fort Lauderdale.
All proceeds from the evening, which includes an impressive array of auction and raffle items, will benefit the PB&J Project.
Florio, local business owner (Quillen's Bottle Gas Co.) and mom to a 4-year-old son, came to the issue of homelessness with a personal connection. Her stepfather ("I refer to him as my father," she says) was a Vietnam War veteran whose alcohol abuse led him to a life on the streets. But the decision to start the PB&J Project came out of the blue.
"My husband and I were shopping at BJ's and I looked down in our cart and said, 'Wow, that's a lot of crap,'" Florio says, laughing. "I figured if we could afford to spend 300 bucks for our house, we could afford a little more and feed some hungry people. So I went and grabbed another cart."
One Florio's first journey to find homeless people to feed, Google took her to Stranahan Park. "No shelters popped up, but Stranahan Park did," she recalls. It was Feb. 3, 2014, a date Florio says she'll never forget. She also can remember the names of the first people she served: a guy named C, and then Mike, and Bobby and Billy.
"A lot of things changed in my life that day, in so many ways, for the better," Florio says. "To be part of a moment in someone's day, to be able to put a smile on someone's face and see the look of relief, so that they didn't have to worry about where they are going to get their food from, for that day at least … And it just grew."
Since that time, Florio and her husband, Micah Harris, have spent most Monday-Thursdays handing out brown bag lunches to homeless in the park, along with clothing and toiletries. They also spend time assisting them with jobs and housing. In 16 months, Florio says the project has gotten 64 homeless people off the streets.
Florio and Candlebox singer Kevin Martin go back more than a half-dozen years, having met through mutual South Florida friends. When Florio mentioned her new endeavor last year, Martin offered to play a benefit. She had forgotten the conversation, but when Martin saw her Facebook post about PB&J's anniversary in February, he pushed her to set up a charity concert.
Martin's concern for the homeless stretches back to the early 1990s, when he and Candlebox partner Pete Klett wrote a song titled "He Calls Home." The song was inspired by a man Martin would see every day in the alley behind his Seattle home.
"One day, he wasn't there. And I haven't seen him since," Martin says. The mystery of where he ended up "just affected me," he says.
Martin recently had been working on a side project with Saliva singer Bobby Amaru when he mentioned the PB&J concert, and Amaru was quick to jump on board. Both bands are playing for free.
Among the items in the silent auction Saturday night are two Gibson guitars signed by Candlebox and Saliva; a guitar signed by the Rolling Stones; a basketball signed by the 2012-2013 NBA champion Miami Heat; a signed Miami Dolphins football; boxing gloves signed by heavyweight champions Mike Tyson, Evander Holyfield and Lennox Lewis; and a poster from the movie "Castaway" signed by Tom Hanks.
Candlebox and Saliva will perform 8 p.m. Saturday, June 13, at Revolution Live, 101 SW Third Ave., in Fort Lauderdale, to benefit the nonprofit the Peanut Butter & Jelly Project. Tickets cost $35 advance, $40 day of show, at the Revolution box office, LiveNation.com and all Ticketmaster outlets. Go to Facebook.com/PBAndJProject or JoinTheRevolution.net.