AVON PARK — Anna Marie Feeney is one busy lady throughout the year. From the War Dog Memorial being celebrated on Veteran’s Day to the Armed Forces Trees dedication on Dec. 7, if there is a veteran event, chances are Feeney will be there.
Promoting honor, respect and dignity always, Feeney’s non-profit, the Battle of the Bands Inc., was established in 2015. Through it, Feeney and a dedicated team of volunteers raise money for local veterans projects and charities.
The Battle of the Bands was originally created to raise funds for an annual display honoring American veterans. The Armed Forces Trees display is installed at the Veterans Square in downtown Avon Park during the holiday season. This year’s fourth annual ceremony will be held in conjunction with the 63rd anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor. The trees remain in place until Jan. 1.
After covering operational costs of events, all donations are returned to local veteran-centric charities. An executive board follows a strict mandate, funding only locally-oriented veteran charities returning at least 90 percent of their proceeds directly back to veterans they serve.
In 2018, the three charities funded by Feeney’s organization will include the Highlands County Chapter of the Vietnam Veterans of America, the South Florida State College’s Veterans Club and Bay Pines’ Fisher House, which serves Highlands County veterans and their families. Each will receive $1,000 from proceeds raised at the music festivals Feeney spearheads.
Presented to these charities during the “You Served Us, Now We Serve You” food service held at Union Congregational Church in Avon Park on Veteran’s Day, Executive Pastor Aaron Jahjah shared how Feeney’s dedication and willingness to serve the community never ceases to amaze him. “She is always willing to make herself available.”
Robert Hampton, Veterans Services advisor at South Florida State College and leader of the college’s Veterans Club, is well aware of Feeney’s community involvement. “She holds the Vet Jam every year to help out local veterans and always puts veterans first,” he said.
Hampton appreciates how she helps keep veteran issues out in front of community awareness and helps them any way she can.
Vet Jam includes live entertainment, food trucks, a car show, Freedom Run, games, raffles, boat show and more, and is the primary way Feeney raises funds to benefit veterans.
One of the bands that has performed during Feeney’s events is the enormously popular California Toe Jam Band. Leader Harry Havery spoke of Feeney’s commitment to veterans. “Her heart for veterans and the community is unmatched,” he said.
Havery finds Feeney’s sheer dedication inspiring. “She is always out there, working for someone in the community.”
Nashville, Tennessee songwriter Robbie A has participated in three separate events with Feeney and spoke of her positive, supportive manner. “Anna Marie saw me play and liked the band so she booked us. She is so positive and has a gift for rallying her community to gain support for the groups she represents.”
Speaking of how she’d get out there and get the crowds dancing, Robbie A recalled how wonderful it was working with her. “She goes above and beyond. She’s always working for the groups she books, trying to help you even after her events.”
Dale Marshall, drummer for Raisin’ Cain band, commended Feeney for all she does for the veterans she serves. “What she’s doing for vets is great. It’s not an easy job putting together a big event like she does.” Mentioning the amount work and time it takes to secure vendors, book entertainment and work with city government to ensure all goes well, Marshall is impressed how Feeney puts it all together. “It takes so much time and effort. She does a great job,” he said.
Jeffrey Styles of Free Agent, the headlining band for Vet Jam 2019, has personally known Feeney for nine years. “Anna Marie is one of those people who will go out of their way to help you, but never ask for any help for herself.” Styles added he’s known her as long as he’s been playing in Highlands County and is looking forward to joining her for Vet Jam next year.
Striving to assist veterans through dedicated care and volunteerism, Feeney aims to improve the quality of life of those who have served their nation and community.