Do you know about Toronto’s annual HEART & VISION AWARDS? I didn’t until last year when my friends at UrbanSource Catering asked me to attend and blog about the fabulous concert and awards presented by the Toronto United Church Council (TUCC) – Urban was catering the post-concert reception.
In 2014, awards were presented to Shirley Douglas and Jackie Richardson for their humanitarianism and commitment to social justice, and the concert was both moving and rousing with songs, speeches and lots of love being shared amongst the audience in the pews of the Metropolitan United Church on Queen St East in Toronto. I had the pleasure of chatting with some of the Church dignitaries, ministers, guests and, of course, the wonderful ladies who were honoured. Pictured below: Shirley Douglas and Jackie Richardson being serenaded by her daughter, Kim (2014).
This year, I’m privileged to undertake the publicity and promotions for the Heart & Vision Awards taking place May 11th, this time honouring Lt. General Roméo Dallaire and Dr. Mary Jo Leddy (pictured below). I recently spoke with Jim Patterson, TUCC’s Director, Resource Development and one of the event organizers.
Jim, tell me what the Heart & Vision Awards are all about and how long they have been presented? The Toronto United Church Council’s annual Heart & Vision Awards Concert celebrates a commitment to social justice and recognizes individuals who have made significant contributions to social justice initiatives in Canada and internationally. They have been presented annually since 2009 and funds raised support Council’s work with children and youth and its work with social ministries in the GTA and south central Ontario.
The evening’s format is a concert. It has gained a reputation as being an evening of stellar music with performances from some of the leading lights of Toronto’s music scene. The reception is renowned for the sumptuous food catered by UrbanSource Catering.
Our Heart and Vision recipients are political and church figures, popular musicians, film stars and directors, social and environmental activists, and writers. Each has made a significant contribution to society’s quest for social and environmental justice. For some the social justice connection is obvious – Cathy Crowe, for example, works as a street nurse and advocates for better care for homeless people and Brent Hawkes is a minister at Toronto’s Metropolitan Community Church and a leader in supporting LGBTQ rights. Others, such as Gordon Lightfoot, Margaret Atwood, or Norman Jewison, have used their creative talent to highlight important social issues and inspire us to deeper empathy for others and respect for the natural world.
This year, you have two deserving recipients for the Heart & Vision Awards: Lt. Gen’l Roméo Dallaire and Dr. Mary Jo Leddy. Can you share the selection process and why these two humanitarians were chosen for 2015? Potential recipients are nominated by Council board members and other close friends of Council. Each year a small committee chooses the recipients from the list of nominees. For example, last year we honoured two women in the arts community (Shirley Douglas and Jackie Richardson) and the year before the recipients were recognized for their contributions to environmentalism (Margaret Atwood and the Hon. William G. Davis). Lieutenant-General Dallaire and Dr. Leddy are both advocates for some of the world’s most vulnerable people. Lieutenant-General Dallaire is known for his work on genocide prevention, mental health and war-affected children and Dr. Leddy for her care and advocacy for refugees and the defense of their rights.
The Toronto United Church Council has coordinated the Community Relief Fund for over 120 years – how have the needs changed and how has the Church supported the communities involved? The Toronto United Church Council is an historic and unique organization within The United Church of Canada. It was founded in 1892 as the Methodist Social Union, with a mandate to address social problems in the city. The “Union” – now the “Council” – oversaw mission and relief work in the city and its suburbs. It founded, owned, and operated the Victor Home for Women, now the Massey Centre (pictured below), where young women becoming mothers receive practical support. Similarly, the Council organized and managed the work of the Fred Victor Mission, which has provided food, shelter, and medical care to those in need since 1894.
Both those organizations have become independent corporations with continuing Council support for their property and program requirements. During the depression, Council trucks distributed food and clothing to churches and missions to pass along to those in need. And early on, Council became involved in fresh-air camping programs for youth (pictured below).
Today, the Council continues to partner with and support social ministry endeavours of the United Church. Affordable housing projects such as Hillcrest Lodge in Orillia, community ministries like the Malvern Community Outreach Ministry, and social service ministries including the Toronto Christian Resource Centre, are in partnership with Council. In addition, Council partners with non-church organizations including Alpha Centre for men recovering from addiction and the Toronto Distress Centre.
Throughout this long history of ministry work, Council’s Community Relief Fund* has provided a conduit for individuals and congregations to share in the mission of partner agencies, missions, and congregations doing outreach in their local communities. From providing funding for appliances for food banks to bedding for women’s shelters, from setting up out-of-the-cold programs to providing venues for a hot meal program, the Fund has been there to help.
As Council’s oldest established fund, the Community Relief Fund continues to play an important role in shaping the ministry of Toronto United Church Council. The Fund’s work demonstrates Council’s commitment to investing in social ministries that represent a breakthrough in local delivery of services rather than a breakdown. In fact, since 1892, the Community Relief Fund has placed a very high value on investing its financial aid in projects and programs that promise solutions to some of society’s big problems.
Recently, much of the Fund’s energy has been invested in the work of the Toronto Christian Resource Centre in Regent Park. That organization’s 40 Oaks project represents such a huge leap in the level of community service it provides to the homeless that Council was delighted to provide property, grants and financing to help ensure the success of the project.
What can attendees expect to see/hear at this year’s Awards concert Monday evening, May 11th?Attendees can expect an evening of soulful music featuring the Elmer Iseler Singers, Thom Allison and Jennie Such (pictured below). Musical Director Jason Jestadt has been coordinating the musical element of the evening since 2009 and each year the music is stellar. Attendees will hear from the award recipients, Lieutenant-General Dallaire and Dr. Leddy.
And a big thank you to all the enthusiastic volunteers (below) who dedicate time and energy to producing the concert each year, making sure all the technical and hospitality activities run smoothly. Bravo, team H&V!
How can people get involved or support the Community Relief Fund if they can’t attend the concert? Donations to the Community Relief Fund can be mailed to:
Toronto United Church Council
24-30 Wertheim Court
Richmond Hill, ON L4B 1B9
*The Community Relief Fund makes grants to churches and to church corporations to help them renovate their premises to facilitate better delivery of social services to the communities they serve.
If you would like to attend this year’s Heart & Vision Awards Concert, Monday May 11th at the Metropolitan United Church, 56 Queen St East, Toronto. (Doors open 7:00pm), please visit http://on.fb.me/1xTVDe7 for ticketing information, or visit the TUCC website: http://tucc.ca/
Thank you for supporting this outstanding philanthropic event that benefits all of us in the City of Toronto.