By Darla Shelden
City Sentinel Reporter
American pop singer and native Oklahoman, B.J. Thomas will headline the Concert for SHINE, an annual fundraising event on Thursday, April 28, at Riverwind Casino, south of Norman along I-35.
SHINE founder and District 2 Oklahoma County Commissioner Brian Maughan said that Thomas had been a target of the SHINE Foundation since last year’s successful benefit concert headlined by country western icon Merle Haggard. A previous concert for SHINE featured the ‘Queen of Rockabilly,’ Wanda Jackson.
Soon after Maughan became County Commissioner he saw a need to combine public and private resources to help improve neglected and deteriorated neighborhoods. Working closely with court officials, Maughan created SHINE – Start Helping Impacted Neighborhoods Everywhere, a program that puts low-level offenders and student volunteers to work on community service projects.
“This was really the brainchild of public defender Bob Ravitz,” said Maughan. “His concept was to do this with graffiti removal, but it soon became evident to me that this could be a much larger opportunity. I expanded it into schools, parks and neighborhoods.”
With the cooperation of District Attorney David Prater, Bob Ravitz and Oklahoma County judges, the program allows sentencing of low-level non-violent offenders to work on community service crews as a way to pay their obligation to society.
“Those who are convicted of a felony pay a minimum fine of $25 up to $250, per the judges discretion,” Maughan said. “The money is retained in that county. So it’s the offenders themselves who are paying for much of this program. The objective is to alleviate their time in jail.”
According to Maughan, the work is done at no cost to taxpayers, while relieving the Oklahoma County jail’s overcrowding problems. In addition, SHINE has reduced jail headcounts by some 80 per day, at an annual savings to the County of around $1.5 million.
That work adds additional savings to local government and school systems that would have had to pay workers to perform the tasks done by SHINE crews.
“It costs between $45 and $50 a day to keep one inmate in a county or city jail,” Maughan said. “Under SHINE, we save that money while we impress on these offenders that their actions still have consequences. They are learning a lesson and performing valuable services at the same time.”
Funds raised to operate the foundation underwrite the Students for SHINE program and other community activities.
“B.J. Thomas has conquered just about every American record chart there is, from rock to pop to country to gospel,” Maughan said. “He’s in the Grammy Award Hall of Fame, has sold over 70 million records and boasts one of the most recognizable songbooks in American music.”
Born in Hugo, OK, his list of hits include ‘I Just Can’t Help Believin’,” Hooked on a Feeling’ and his signature tune, ‘Raindrops Keep Fallin’ On My Head,’ the Academy Award winning song from the film ‘Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.’” His latest album, ‘The Living Room Sessions,’ features duet performances with the musical artists Neil Sedaka, Vince Gill and Lyle Lovett.
During Thomas’ appearance he will be presented with the annual SHINE Award for Meritorious Service.
“We’re so proud that B.J. hails from Oklahoma,” Maughan said. “He has represented every notion of what an Oklahoman should be as both an incredibly popular and in demand artist to being a loving husband, since 1968, father and grandfather.”
B.J. Thomas in Concert for SHINE is produced with the help of the Chickasaw Nation and Donna Jackson, Attorney at Law, along with FUN 96.9 FM, Oklahoma City.