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Using His Gifts to Give Back

Local recording engineer rallies Athens creatives to help community nonprofits

Feel like you can’t do much to make a difference? 

Try chatting with Drew Vandenberg for a little inspiration. 

“Think about how much TV we watch,” said this Athens-based recording engineer. “If instead, we spent five hours a week — or even five hours every other week — working at the food bank or the library, it could have this massive impact.” 

Drew’s quick to laugh and say he’s not trying to call everyone out. 

“I just got to the point in my life where I felt like I needed to hold myself accountable,” he explained. “I looked around and said: ‘What are my skills? Who are the people I can work together with to make a change?’ And I started there.” 

Drew, who grew up in Watkinsville, started mixing music at Chase Park Transduction as a teenager — a job he’s still doing today.  

His other job? Giving back through Athens Resonates. 

Athens Resonates brings together (mostly) Athens-based creative businesses. Funds are raised through the sales of live band recordings and original album art. One hundred percent of proceeds benefit Nuci’s Space and the Boys & Girls Clubs of Athens’ Music Makers program. 

“The long and short of it is: Nuci’s Space and the Boys & Girls Club both have tons of programs for kids,” he added. “They’re both filling vital roles.” 

After developing a plan for Athens Resonates in 2018 and launching at South by Southwest in 2019, they started strong. 

“We had a really great first year,” said Drew. “We put out four releases before the pandemic hit.” 

That start helped make a difference, especially as Covid began to impact the community. 

“The timing of it all couldn’t have been more useful,” he explained. “Right before the pandemic, we had raised almost $20,000. So, when it hit, I was able to turn to these community-based organizations in a time of uncertainty, a time when people are looking for stability. … We were able to give each of them $10,000.” 

And even though Covid paused some of their work, Athens Resonates started recording again last year. 

“We took that breather,” he said. “And then, we put out another release [in 2022] as sort of our comeback.” 

For Drew, connecting with musicians, engineering sound, and giving back to the community are all things he loves. But the technical aspects of giving? That felt a little more challenging.  

Thankfully, a friend referred him to the Athens Area Community Foundation. 

“[They] said there’s this community foundation. You can have a fund there. You can keep a certain amount of money there and put it toward great causes,” he recalled. “And I said, ‘This sounds exactly like what I want.’” 

Drew said he appreciated the flexibility, support, and encouragement from AACF President and CEO Sarah McKinney, as well as Kipper Koslowsky, Director of Donor Services. 

“Sarah and Kipper are just so helpful,” he said. “Just being able to email them with any questions I might have [is great]. They’re a good resource. And they’ve been really helpful to me in getting my fund to work in the way it needs to work.” 

The Athens Area Community Foundation is a good option for anyone exploring ways to give back, according to Drew. 

“If you’re looking for a way to funnel some of your money or resources toward good, it’s a great way to do that. They’re great people to talk to over there and explain how all this works,” he said. “They’re extremely helpful. It’s great to have this built-in infrastructure. [Someone] that you can go to and say, ‘I’d like to do something nice with my money. Can you help me grow that?’ And they do.” 

“I’m just glad it does exist,” he added. 

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The Athens Area Community Foundation is a public grantmaking foundation that builds community by encouraging long term giving through funds created by caring donors.

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