Band's charity work is music to young people's ears

Published: Thursday, July 5 2012 10:00 p.m. MDT

Rebecca Pontius of the charitable group Foster the Future helps a boy named Chris zip up his new coat during a service project at the Utah Dream Center in Salt Lake City Thursday, July 5, 2012. The event was sponsored by the Dream Center, Heart 2 Home and Foster the Future, the charitable arm of the popular band Foster the People.

Brian Nicholson, Deseret News

WEST VALLEY CITY — Perhaps only a teenage girl would fly across the Pacific Ocean to volunteer in a rock band's charity event in the morning, then watch the band perform that same night.

That is exactly what Kiana Tiare Tibas did. The Honolulu teen and her mother, Janell Yim, altered their summer vacation in order to attend Thursday's concert by Foster the People, an American indie band, at Saltair.

Earlier Thursday, the band's charity foundation — Foster the Future — teamed with Heart 2 Home, a nonprofit organization that helps those in need of home repair, to remodel the Utah Dream Center in Salt Lake City.

With rain outside and all the ceiling fans running at full blast inside, more than 100 volunteers, mostly youths, began sorting clothes and painting the inside of the building.

Kiana, who is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, said she did not attend the band's concert in Hawaii because they were performing there on a Sunday. She was devastated to miss her favorite band, which she listens to every day on her way home from school.

Luckily, the teen and her mom were already planning on traveling to Utah. When she learned that the band would be performing in Salt Lake City, the family rescheduled the vacation around the concert and the service project.

"I know that sometimes the band tries to make it (to the service project)," Kiana said. "If that won't happen, that is OK because I am going to the concert tonight and hopefully I can meet them.

"I love their music. They're awesome and (I like them) because you don't hear bands doing these type of projects where every city they go on tour with the Do Good Bus and do service," the 16-year old said.

Foster the People, a Los Angeles band best known for the hit "Pumped Up Kicks," created the Do Good Bus, a volunteer effort that gave 30 volunteers an opportunity to perform service with the band last year. The project evolved into the Do Good Project, which is now open to all the band's fans in every city where it tours.

Rebecca Pontius, sister of the band's drummer Mark Pontius, is the founder of Foster the Future. She travels with the band in the Do Good Bus, which travels to every show. She said that the band wanted to promote volunteer work among their fans.

"They started this do-good notion in the beginning cause they know if they ever had an opportunity to have a voice and to have any kind of platform, they would want to use it to do good," Pontius said. "They really wanted to engage their fans as opposed to just sending them the message. They wanted to give them an opportunity to take action."

Pontius said the goal of the foundation is to bring people together who might not normally meet, who have "probably passed each other on the street and never knew that they were both pretty awesome people and that they really wanted to give back."

The idea of Foster the Future is to inspire and create the desire in youths to volunteer. Their fan base has increased, particularly in the social media scene where the band has more than 2.6 million fans on Facebook, she said.

Kiana said she communicates with Mark Foster, a founding member of the band, on Twitter.

"I will make sure (the band) definitely talks to her," Rebecca Pontius said of Kiana. "Hopefully after today, she will have a new passion for doing good."

Many volunteers show up just because they're big fans of the band. "When they actually have done the volunteer activity, they realize how great it is and they want to do it again," Pontius said.

Alexandra Chobine, 17, volunteered as a photographer through the band's website. She admitted she wouldn't have been volunteering if Foster the Future wouldn't presented her with the chance.

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