Stars align for Warm Hearts

Concert in aid of Iris Kirby House set for Saturday

Published on February 19, 2014
Sean McCann, in his first public performance since leving Great Big Sea, joins a slew of other performers Saturday night at Holy Heart Theatre in St. John's for 'Under the Covers," a concert in aid of The Telegram's Warm Hearts campaign for Iris Kirby House. – Telegram file photo

It didn’t take much arm-twisting to get Sean McCann on board for a show in aid of Iris Kirby House. After receiving a long-winded email, he replied with one word: “Definitely.”

“I am a husband and a father. There is no excuse for domestic violence — ever,” McCann later told The Telegram. “Iris Kirby House helps mothers and children in crisis when they have nowhere else to go. I think we should all try to help them do that.”

It’s words like that that bolster the staff at Iris Kirby House, and let the residents — women and children escaping violent circumstances — know they have the support of a caring community, celebrities and all.

McCann is one of a number of stars performing Saturday night at “Under the Covers,” a show presented by The Telegram at Holy Heart Theatre, with all proceeds going to our Warm Hearts campaign for Iris Kirby House.  Other performers are Mark Critch of “22 Minutes,” Lynda Boyd of “Republic of Doyle,” Chris Andrews of Shanneyganock, Mary Barry, Ian Foster and Chris Kirby, as well as comedian Sarah Walsh and The Neighbourhood Strays bellydancers.

In an intimate, songwriters’ circle-type setting around a grand piano, the musicians will play a range of popular cover songs and original music, giving the quirky stories behind the tunes.

It’s McCann’s first performance since leaving Great Big Sea, and he’ll be including songs from his newly-released solo album, “Help Your Self.”

In the past two years, Warm Hearts has raised close to $20,000 and collected more than 5,000 new items of comfy winter clothing for the residents at Iris Kirby House.

Where does the money go?

In order to meet the demands of a growing society and the women and children turning up at the shelter’s doors, staff have developed a new model for Iris Kirby House.

The house is under renovation and when completed, will have two units: one for women with children and one for single women, providing an additional 10 beds, as well as four self-contained units adjoined to the property. The shelter currently has 22 beds, and runs at full capacity much of the time.

In researching a new model, staff knew it had to allow for effective program delivery with the goal of empowering women back into society into safe, affordable housing.

“This model brought together all of the necessary components,” said Gail Tobin, the shelter’s executive director. “We have outgrown our space, and the expansion will also realize much-needed meeting space areas, storage, offices and such.”

It will also include two rooms, provided by the generosity of Telegram readers through the Warm Hearts project.

“Proceeds from this year’s campaign will be used to furnish the largest bedroom in the family unit of the new model, as well as a single bedroom in the unit for single women,” Tobin explained. In the family unit, furnishings will include a double bed, twin beds, crib and highchair, among other items. Both rooms will have a plaque acknowledging Warm Hearts.

Opened in 1981, Iris Kirby House provides abused women and their children the opportunity to explore alternatives to their current situation. Each year, the shelter sees more than 2,500 women and children come through its doors. Services are provided free  of charge, including emergency shelter, advocacy for legal, housing food and financial needs, a weekly empowerment group and crisis line. Iris Kirby House is the only shelter of its kind in St. John’s.

Over the past three years, the shelter has seen an increase in the number of calls to its crisis line during the Warm Hearts campaign. Tobin said this is because women are realizing they have options. While the number of women staying at the shelter has gone up in recent years, the rate of recidivism has gone down. Iris Kirby House’s programming is working.

“The campaign does encourage women to reach out to us, and we can never underestimate that,” Tobin said.

“We know we will never end domestic violence, however, we will continue to bring as much public awareness to the issue as possible. We will continue to work in partnership with all those necessary to offer a continuum of support for our clients. We will continue to provide safe shelter, and we will continue to bring as much public awareness to the issue as possible, which is quite evident by this campaign. On behalf of all the women who have reached out to us and those yet to come forward, I say at sincere thank-you to everyone involved in making this year’s campaign another huge success.”

Tickets for “Under the Covers” are going fast — they’re $25 (including taxes and surcharge) and are available at the Holy Heart box office, by calling 579-4424 or online at

In the meantime, The Telegram is continuing to collect items for Warm Hearts, which will be given to Iris Kirby House. We are collecting pyjamas, hats, scarves, mittens, socks, underwear, slippers and housecoats (new only, please), as well as personal care items like soap and toothpaste.

This year, we’re also focusing on donations of blankets, to provide the women and children with some comfort and warmth. We’re collecting knitted and crocheted squares, which we will sew together into blankets and donate. Make your squares 8 x 8 inches (20 x 20 cm), in any pattern and any weight yarn you choose, and darn the ends in, but leave a 20-inch “tail” to allow us to sew them together.

There will be a donation area set up at the show, or you can drop your items off at The Telegram offices in the Village Mall. You can also drop your knitted items at Cast On! Cast Off!, a yarn shop at 685 Water St. (across from Victoria Park in St. John’s), which is a sponsor of this year’s Warm Hearts project.

Mention you’re knitting for Warm Hearts and you’ll receive 10 per cent off your purchases there.

We’ll continue collecting knitted squares until the end of March.

“I’ve visited the shelter a number of times over the past couple of years and I’ve met many of the residents,” said arts reporter Tara Bradbury, who heads up the campaign.

“I’ve heard many stories of abuse that would break your heart. I’ve also been there during times when the clothing donated through Warm Hearts has been presented to the women, and have seen how absolutely grateful and gracious they are to receive it.

“Many of them have shed tears, and more than a few have been touched by just how much complete strangers care for them.”