Outside it looked like an ordinary day at GRIP with people lining up to get their trays of food. Unbeknownst to them, inside they would be met by a bassist, a pianist, and a drummer performing iconic Blues music.

“When the band started playing today, it was energetic,” said Executive Director Ralph Payton. Through a grant to provide music to underserved communities from the Whippoorwill Foundation, the Greater Richmond Interfaith Program (GRIP) brought The Dewayne Oakley Blues Ensemble to the dining room on May 18th, its second monthly concert in the series.

It was a mixture of nostalgic music and delicious food. Staff, clients, and even outside guests all enjoyed the musical performance. 

“People are starting to expect positive things when they come to GRIP,” Ralph remarks. “The opportunity to have our clients experience some of the joy that we get from music proves that dignity and respect is more than just a meal.”

Throughout the event, many people commented on the band’s performance and how they deeply appreciate what GRIP is doing for folks in need. 

“The music is beautiful today. It’s good to see the jazz players come down here and give people another cultural insight into music… It seemed like everybody enjoyed it. I’m dancing to it!” said Chris from Richmond.



Echoing this sentiment, a resident named Descaro mentioned, “I know most of the songs that they’re playing because I’m an old man. My parents grew up with most of these songs, they played them as a kid, on 78 records.”

“I’m a guitar player. I love music. I just passed through, and thought, Let me run in there and see what’s going on. I heard some music, and it sounds so great”, said a man passing by. 

Payton was thrilled about the reactions, “We’re just thankful for the support of other area non-profits as well. We have to be able to do this as a community, and it takes all of us in order to bring up the least of us. We’re just thankful we’re able to work in conjunction to raise smiles to the faces of those who visit GRIP every day.”

“Our goal here is when people come in our door, they leave feeling a little bit better than when they entered. A few of them even stopped me outside and thanked me for having some nice jazz and blues with their meal.”

“They love it, they love the music. That’s a gift from God,” Reverend Ed Forde.

 “I like it, it’s a different vibe. I think you guys should do it more often,” Jackie from Hercules

“I love it, we need it more often… They’re loving it. They’re clapping and everything.”  Xandria Duncan, a GRIP staff member.

“It’s nice to have something different, it lightens up the place,” said Alyssa, a resident of GRIP from Oakley, who’s been here for 3 months.

For the musicians, these performances offer a rewarding experience. As Oakley explains, “I’ve done things out in the public where anybody can show up. What I really enjoyed was that the people at GRIP were appreciative. It’s difficult to know exactly what people want to hear. What we did was great, it seemed like everybody really enjoyed themselves, and we enjoyed playing for them as well.”

“It’s a good thing that the Whippoorwill Arts organization has funds for musicians in places like this where people won’t necessarily be able to afford the music… it’s a win-win” he remarks. “There will be other acts that I will try to put in this place on Thursdays through the Whippoorwill Arts organization, so be prepared for more!”

The Whippoorwill Arts is a non-profit organization that aims to support and empower roots musicians and artists. The musical event would not have been possible without the support of their Music aLIVE Grant. Music aLIVE provides career-roots musicians with guaranteed pay for live local performances. Musicians such as The Dewayne Oakley Blues Ensemble, a dynamic musical group known for their soulful and electrifying blues performances. Led by the talented guitarist and vocalist Dewayne Oakley, the ensemble brings together a group of seasoned musicians who are masters of their craft.

For more than five decades, GRIP has served as a multiservice agency, addressing the needs of vulnerable individuals in the Greater Richmond area. Starting as a community food pantry, GRIP expanded its services to include emergency shelter and housing for families in 1993. Additionally, the Souper Center, established in 1966, has been providing meals and other necessities to those in need. GRIP’s positive impact on the community has touched the lives of thousands, creating a lasting legacy of care and support. 

Ralph Payton closes off by saying, “Our clients have shared that this has become their premiere lunch spot in western Richmond, and we’re happy to be part of that experience for them.”