Tammy Lenox has given to the Garner and Britt communities repeatedly. She fed and provided a sense of normalcy to many throughout the pandemic. Now, community members are returning the favor to the owner and operator of Mat’s Place in Garner.
Lenox was diagnosed with diabetes about two years ago and developed a foot infection that caused the loss of toes on her left foot. The infection spread into her leg bone, leading to partial leg amputation surgery and repeated trips to Mayo Clinic in Rochester. After further complications, Lenox returned home on Nov. 11 and is receiving intravenous antibiotics. She is in a wheel chair and hopes to be fit with a prosthetic in 8-10 weeks.
“She can’t work right now,” longtime friend and former Mat’s Place employee Robin Hamrick said. “I fill in when I can now." She is one of many who stepped up to give back to Lenox.
Hundreds of Hancock County residents gathered at Mat’s Place on Nov. 20 to show support for Lenox with a benefit fundraiser for her. Local band Amber Wave had not performed since 2014 but they got the band back together just for her, their longtime friend and biggest fan.
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Lead singer Mark Gjerde said “It was Jeff (Prohaska) and I who said that we ought to do something for Tammy. It started as a jam session for her. It quickly snowballed into a bake sale, silent auction, live auction, and more.”
“If Mark plays with the band, we knew we needed to have the bake sale and auctions, and dinner,” his wife, Gail Gjerde said. Hamrick, Teresa Wester, Conrae Huinker, and Angie Schilling all helped spearhead the rest in less than a month.
The band reunion was touted Amber Wave and Friends, because there were so many friends supporting Tammy and some filling in with the band. Containing their lead singer, drummer, and multiple guitar players, one addition to the band was Nick Lemon of Britt, who is a stepson of Gjerde. He played guitar during part of the show and set up beforehand. Hiscocks adjusted the sound equipment
“The original Amber Wave started in 1982,” band member Brad Hiscocks of Britt said. “It’s Amber Wave and Friends. A bunch of friends are here. We’re getting the band back together for the benefit. Tammy was a very, very good friend of the band." Hamrick attested to the fact, saying "When they used to have the band together, Tammy was such a good friend of the band. She went to a lot of their concerts and kept in touch with them".
“Everything went really well,” Hamrick said afterward. “We had such a good turnout. I would guess that at least 400 to 500 people attended. It was packed in there. At one point, it was elbow to elbow... We are so very thankful for all the donations received in such a short period of time.”
All benefit proceeds will go toward Lenox’s medical and related travel costs as well as extra staffing costs at the restaurant. Matt Townsend is running the bar side of the business and Lenox’s son, Dillon, is helping with restaurant cooking. Hamrick said many guests were very generous with their free-will donations for the meal.
“We’re giving back to her and showing her appreciation for all she’s done for the local community,” said Gail Gjerde. “Essential workers have all depended on her and everyone with a need has been able to get whatever they need at the bar during COVID.”
Lenox has donated a lot of meat and food to community members during the pandemic. When COVID-19 started, she organized Easter baskets for area children, handing out more than 300 when parents drove by with their kids in cars. She provided goodie bags to farmers during their busy fall harvest season.
In addition, Lenox has held the Ole Beard Fundraiser in October with proceeds and gift cards going to cancer patients, locally first and beyond as the funds raised permitted. She also organized a Santa and Mrs. Claus drive-by at Mat’s Place for the kids, so the kids could see them during COVID-19. Even now, her treat bags for the Britt Santa Village are still being delivered.
“She does it just because that’s who she is,” Hamrick said.
Rob Hillesland is community editor for the Summit-Tribune. He can be reached at 641-421-0534, or by email at email@example.com.