‘Stars for Warm Hearts’ belts out a feel-good song in first annual benefit for Iris Kirby House
When staff at Iris Kirby House change shifts, they keep a log, writing notes for the staff members who are about to take over to let them know how the day has been going.
Recorded in Friday night’s staff shift change were comments about how much the residents — victims of domestic abuse — had enjoyed their evening.
“The chatter among residents at our shelter this weekend is all about the Warm Hearts concert,” said Gail Tobin, Iris Kirby House’s executive director. “There’s a lighthearted feeling in the air.”
Residents and former residents of Iris Kirby House were among the audience members at “Stars for Warm Hearts,” a concert held by The Telegram at the St. John’s Arts and Culture Centre as part of the Warm Hearts campaign. Hosted by “Republic of Doyle” actress Lynda Boyd, some of Atlantic Canada’s best award-winning talent rocked the stage, donating their time and talent to raise money for the shelter.
The Novaks, Chris Kirby and the Marquee, comedian John Sheehan, The Neighbourhood Strays bellydancers, Mary Barry, Repartee, Jerry Stamp, Ian Foster, Kim Wempe, The Long Distance Runners, Evry7th and The Dukes of Doyle, a band of “Republic of Doyle” crew featuring Boyd as lead singer, had a 500-strong audience singing, laughing and on their feet clapping, especially with the grand finale: a heartfelt, all-in cover of Jackie DeShannon’s “Put a Little Love in Your Heart.”
‘I thought about how empowering this is going to be’
“The show was nothing short of fantastic, and as one of the audience members said to me after the show, the talent was among the finest that we would see anywhere,” Tobin said. “So touching was that each and every performer made a point of expressing how good it made them feel to be supporting this cause.
“Conversation with (the residents and former residents) afterwards was all about how empowered and how important they felt tonight because of the Warm Hearts campaign. We can’t put a value on that.”
Through Warm Hearts, The Telegram has been collecting new pyjamas, blankets and items of winter clothing as well as personal hygiene products like soap, shampoo and toothpaste, for the residents of Iris Kirby House, a 22-bed shelter for women and children fleeing violent situations. The campaign will continue until Wednesday, and thousands of items have been donated so far. Final tallies of items and money raised will be counted at the end of the project.
Taking the stage at the show to express his gratitude to those who have donated to the campaign so far, Telegram publisher Charlie Stacey told the crowd the campaign and concert would become a Telegram tradition from here on in.
“I’m proud to tell you that you are at the first annual “Stars for Warm Hearts” concert,” he said, earning cheers and applause.
Tobin, sitting in the audience, found it hard to contain her emotions.
“I thought about how empowering this is going to be for women who have been victimized,” she said.
Boyd, who has been attending various events over the past two months as official patron of Warm Hearts, has already signed on to lead the campaign next year. When Stacey made the announcement, she was on stage behind the curtain, preparing to perform, but got down on her hands and knees, lifted the curtain and poked her head out, shouting, “I’m in!”
“The Warm Hearts campaign has been a very fulfilling and eye-opening journey. If I can help shine light on a dark subject that is close to my heart, then I want to be there holding a giant 10- K lamp,” Boyd said afterwards. “On set, a 10 K is one of the hottest and brightest lights used to illuminate a scene,” she explained.
Among her activities as campaign patron, Boyd visited Iris Kirby House a week ago, where she had a tour of the shelter. She met with staff and residents, many of them opening up to her about their stories of domestic violence.
Boyd said she was touched that so many of them were in the audience at Friday’s show. Iris Kirby’s children, Elizabeth Kirby Stinson of Toronto and Simon Kirby of St. John’s, also attended the concert.
“They got to feel first-hand the love and compassion pouring out towards them through the music and comedy and dance and heartfelt words that night,” Boyd said of the residents. “It was amazing.”
Anyone wishing to contribute to this year’s Warm Hearts campaign can do so by dropping off donations of pyjamas, blankets, socks, slippers, housecoats, underwear, hats, mittens, and scarves for women and children (new items only, please) as well as personal hygiene products at The Telegram’s office, upstairs in the Village Mall. Monetary donations can be made directly to Iris Kirby House by calling 722-8272.