PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Performing artists found themselves suddenly without livelihoods when COVID-19 closures took effect, canceling shows. But amid the darkest hours of the pandemic, a non-profit group stepped in to help.

For musicians like Waterfront Blues Festival veteran Sarah Clarke and her new band, Outer Orbit, surviving the pandemic took courage and a little financial help from friends.

“The last year — I don’t want to mix words, it was honestly really depressing,” Sarah said.

Tours and local gigs were canceled but bills continued piling up. Sarah and her bandmates scrambled for options to help their families survive financially.

Jeremy Wilson, the executive director of the Jeremy Wilson Foundation. (KOIN)

“Like many of my friends who are gigging artists, I had a really hard time navigating things like unemployment,” she said. “It was just hard, so hard.”

Sarah said the Jeremy Wilson Foundation made life easier. The Portland-based non-profit organization was created strictly for musicians and has provided more than $500,000 in grants and services to help local musicians through tough times.

“Having any income in order to take that pressure off — it was really important,” said Sarah.

By easing the pressure, the Jeremy Wilson Foundation made it possible for these talented local musicians to continue performing for the community’s enjoyment.

Grants from the foundation are available to professional musicians in Oregon and Clark County, Washington. Learn more about how to apply for financial assistance.