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Friday, October 24, 2014 | Last updated: 8:32pm

Concert to benefit fire-damaged church



The loss of Tucson’s Saint Demetrios Greek Orthodox Church to a fire left its congregation grieving. Church leaders hope to begin the recovery process with the Fire Benefit Concert for St. Demetrios this weekend.

On May 29, St. Demetrios suffered severe damage from a fire that was started by a seven-day prayer candle left beneath a wooden cross. The temperature reached over 1,000 degrees — destroying icons, the sanctuary, the kitchen, Sunday school classrooms and the fraternal areas, said Father Earl Cantos. Preliminary estimates totaled more than $1 million dollars in damages.

“We pretty much lost everything on the inside,” Cantos said. “There was so much damage throughout all of the complex … These last four months, we’ve been cleaning up all the smoke damage to try to get back in to at least honor properly.”

Cantos said the damage caused by the fire not only impacted the church’s ability to host services, but also resulted in the cancellation of the 38th Annual Tucson Greek Festival, the church’s main fundraiser. Church leaders still wanted to host an event and open the church up to the community, so they decided to host the Fire Benefit Concert for St. Demetrios in an effort to raise funds for rebuilding.

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By Cecilia Alvarez / Arizona Daily Wildcat
Cecilia Alvarez /The Daily Wildcat Father Earl Cantos walks around the St. Demetrois Church on Thursday observing the damages caused by the smoke from the fire last May.

“Instead of the festival, we’re doing this benefit concert, which is going to be an awful lot of fun,” Cantos said.

Jim Howell, chair and performer for the event as well as lifelong member of the parish, said the decision to hold the event was an easy one.

“We didn’t have a place to prepare for the festival, let alone hold it,” Howell said. “This concert means a great deal to us, to still have some type of event and reach out to the greater Tucson community.”

The concert’s headliners will be Cantos’ brother Bill, an internationally known jazz pianist, and his wife, Mary Falcone. Ellington Big Band and The Jim Howell Band will also play. In addition to the performers, the event will also feature a museum showcasing items and photographs that survived the fire, Cantos said.

For Howell, the benefit concert represents not just an opportunity to provide entertainment, but also a way to give back to a place important to his family.

“My grandparents were married in St. Demetrios,” Howell said. “My parents, my sister and my wife and I were all married in the existing location. My kids were baptized in that church, as was I. To be able to contribute in a major way to my home and this community is really important to me.”

With the funds from the benefit concert, church leaders hope to replace what was lost and continue serving the Tucson community. Cantos said church leaders are still deciding whether to restore the damage or move to an entirely new location.

*IF YOU GO:
What: Fire Benefit Concert for Saint Demetrios Greek Orthodox Church
Where: Fox Tucson Theatre, 17 W. Congress St.
When: 7 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Saturday
Tickets range from $20 to $65. All proceeds will go to covering the cost of the event and repairing the church.*


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