Playing It Forward

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Like many of us, Barry Lawrence found himself with some extra time on his hands this spring. In normal, non-COVID circumstances, he would have been spending his days as a business development executive at Johnson Controls and two evenings a week singing at the Sunset Beach Tropical Grill & The Playmore Tiki Bar in Fort Myers—but while the former was temporarily on furlough and the doors were closed at the latter, he decided to keep positive vibes flowing and share some wealth with colleagues in need.

When the coronavirus hit, Lawrence thought of the waitstaff at the Sunset Beach who found themselves suddenly without an income and took his music online for their benefit. “I told my wife … ‘I’m just going to start doing shows on Friday nights in our backyard. I’m going to do it on Facebook Live and I’m just going to try to raise money for all those people who were put out of work,’” he says.

During the month of April, his streaming concerts brought in more than $2,000 in donations, which immediately went right back out again to hard-hit locals—including a pair of waitresses with 5- and 6-month-old infants.

“I was fortunate enough to be able to just pay it forward, because I know there are a lot of people that are in a lot more need than I am,” Lawrence says. “You know, we don’t all have everything we want, but we have what we need, most of us—and the ones that have a little extra, it doesn’t hurt to help someone else, because that’s what we do as Americans and humans. We reach out to those people in need.”

Ultimately, Lawrence said the focus shouldn’t be on the amount he raised, or his philanthropy, specifically, but the spirit of the gesture. “In a time of need, I think we should all step up, and I think most of us do.” That philosophy should be music to the community’s ears.

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