Elf also known as Lorraine McNeil laughs at herself in last year’s Highlands Christmas Shindig at the Northern Lights Performing Arts Pavilion in Haliburton. This event is a fundraiser for the non-profit Fuel for Warmth organization that helps those in need. This year’s show was close to sold out as of Wednesday last week./File photo

Christmas Shindig will warm more than hearts

By Darren Lum

When  Joanne Barnes attended the last organizing meeting for the Highlands Christmas Shindig on Wednesday at Canoe FM she was near tears overcome with emotion about the upcoming benefit event to raise money for the emergency relief  provider Fuel for Warmth.

As the founder of Fuel for Warmth she  couldn’t thank the organizing volunteers enough. Organizers include Mike Jaycock and Lorraine McNeil Adam Perecko Kait Perecko David Mills Heather Smith Lorne McNeil and Scotty Morrison Sharon Foster and Betty Mills.

“What you’ve all done to pull this together is amazing. You’ve made our job so much easier because early on we were scrounging for funds” she said.

Barnes started the non-profit charitable organization Fuel for Warmth eight years ago running it on her own for five years before the formation of a board of directors who have helped the last three.
Fuel for Warmth offers emergency assistance and provides a one time (or more if extreme need is established) “gift” of  enough wood wood pellets kerosene or oil to last for 12 days. Other agencies assist with hydro. Last year there were 65 families that were helped through the organization.

Barnes said helping people stay warm in the winter has an overlooked effect on a community. Children can go to school and focus on their studies while adults can work and contribute to the community without having to worry about what can be done to stay warm.
The event started last year with McNeil and Jaycock portraying their colourful characters Elf and Dame Beatrice exchanging banter. It  eventually included a diverse collection of  entertainers who provided dance comedy and music.
“We said ‘Let’s do it for a good cause.’ And that’s how it started” Jaycock said. “It was hearing the stories. They get emotional in there and I got very emotional.”

At the conclusion of the organizing meeting for the Shindig Jaycock said with the efforts of Fuel for Warmth and Heat Bank Haliburton County he believes everyone in the Highlands will receive the help they need this winter.
“Maybe we can actually make sure the job is done this year” said Jaycock. “The stories I heard they just broke my heart. I couldn’t believe it. People burning furniture. Hanging blankets up so one room was

cordoned off to live in. C’mon. It just blows your mind.”

The Fuel for Warmth board of directors chairperson Marilynne Lesperance was impressed by the professionalism and the organization of this coming performance. She was grateful to the volunteers and everyone involved with this event.
“Never in our wildest dreams did we expect to be this successful. This professional. This organized” she said.

She held back tears her voice quivered recounting the people Fuel for Warmth has helped.
“What you do helps us send wood to somebody like that who says ‘Please help me’ and calls again” she said referring to one man who was unable to get his wood after an industrial accident left him with a punctured lung several broken ribs and two broken legs.
Jaycock said he is pleased with early projections for how much money the event will raise.

The treasurer for Fuel for Warmth and event sponsorship volunteer Lorne McNeil has already projected this year’s event will surpass the more than $4000 raised last year. The positive projection is owed to the sponsors and the donated door and raffle prizes. Among the prizes includes an autographed Matt Duchene Colorado Avalanche jersey.
Lesperance and Barnes said they will look into providing more money per client than the $200 usually allocated and will determine exact figures once the final tally is known.

Everything raised goes to the non-profit run by volunteers as there are no administrative costs since it operates out of the Minden Food Bank. The relationship with the food bank allows greater help for clients who require it.
Donations are always welcome.
Email them at fuelforwarmthincorporated@gmail.com or call 705-286-6838 Monday to Wednesday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. or 705-489-324 after hours.

Besides Jaycock and Lorraine McNeil who will reprise their roles from last year’s event the lineup includes Brigitte Gall Raven Mad Crow Society Scotty Morrison Chad Ingram and Tim Tofflemire Bill Candy the Highlands Little Theatre Comedy Highlands Brass Quintet Tom Regina and Stan Russell and Jim Love and Ken Loney. The event will end with a sing-along with all of the entertainers including encouragement for the audience to join.

The Highlands Christmas Shindig will be held at the Northern Lights Performing Arts Pavilion on Saturday Nov. 28 at 7:30 p.m.  Of the 217 tickets there are very few left. They sell for $20 and are available at Cranberry Cottage in Haliburton and Sassy Digs in Minden.

At the last organizing meeting Jaycock expressed how this event is bigger than him the performers and the show itself.
“I don’t know if you guys feel the same way. This thing is not just doing a show … this is being driven by something I really feel deep inside. I’m really committed to this” he said. “It’s going to be great fun. It’s going to be a great time. The real purpose is to do something really good for the community.”