When Tom Jackson founded The Huron Carole Benefit Concert Series 29 years ago, he didn’t anticipate how many years it would actually run.
Having experienced life on the streets in Winnipeg, the long-time activist, musician and TV personality (from CBC’s North of 60, Star Trek, and Law and Order), simply saw a need to support those who are in the trenches. That need continues today, with more than 800,000 Canadians accessing food banks across the country every month — 188,000 more people than the recession in 2008, according to Food Banks Canada. More than one-third of individuals helped are children and youth.
“It rips your heart out. The numbers are staggering,” said Jackson. “We have to ask the question to ourselves, why is there still this great need for food banks? And why does the need continue to become greater?
At this time every year, Jackson and a handful of other entertainers come together to put on a Christmas concert series across Canada that raises money for local food banks, which has generated more than $200 million in combined cash/in-kind value for agencies since it began.
This year, The Huron Carole will roll into Victoria on Friday, Dec. 16, and will also feature Kristian Alexandrov, winner of the 2008 Canadian Smooth Jazz Award for best pianist, Vancouver-based singer/percussionist Shannon Gaye, and singer/songwriter and actress Beverley Mahood.
Filled with reflection, humour and passion, The Huron Carol tells the story of a homeless man who finds his way by helping others. It’s a performance Jackson calls enchanting, and one that’s guaranteed to get you into the Christmas spirit. All proceeds go towards the Mustard Seed.
“If you’re not sure if you remember what Christmas spirit is all about, set your calendar and understand that you can relight that spirit in yourself,” said Jackson, who hopes the giving spirit will continue to local charities well past the Christmas season.
This year’s increase in food bank use was widespread, with eight out of 10 provinces experiencing a hike. Alberta, Saskatchewan and Nova Scotia showed the most drastic surges of more than 17 per cent. In B.C., the food bank assisted 103,464 people in March 2016 compared to 78,101 people in March 2008.
Until those numbers improve, Jackson will continue the tradition of The Huron Carole every holiday season.
“At this time of year, we tend to be more sensitive to others and we realize that the gift is often in the giving,” he said. “When we understand that the giving trumps the value as a gift, it’ll make a difference.”
The Huron Carole takes place at Centennial United Church at 7:30 p.m. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. for a silent auction. Tickets are $40 in advance and $50 at the door, and are also available online at mustardseed.ca/huron and the McPherson box office. For more information visit huroncarole.ca.