June Muir Talks Sleighing Hunger Concert & Increased Food Bank Needs

(June Muir, President, Windsor Essex Food Bank Association, holding The S’Aints Sleighing Hunger fundraising concert poster at the Unemployed Help Center’s food bank, Unifor Local 200 People’s Choice Pantry, in Windsor, Ontario, on Nov. 23, 2018. Photo above by Eric Bonnici / Eyes On Windsor.)

Last year the Windsor Essex Food Bank Association served approximately 128,000 people and this year’s S’Aints Sleighing Hunger concert will help support the 10% increase in the need the organization has seen this year. “What’s great about this is The S’Aints, St. Clair College, and Caesars Windsor have come together to put this concert on and 100% of the proceeds are coming back to us and Outreach For Hunger in Chatham,” says June Muir, President, Windsor Essex Food Bank Association. “This is really awesome because you never hear of a hundred percent coming back right?”

During a press conference (Nov. 5), 16 local food bank beneficiaries were announced for this 2018 concert, noting this is the largest number of organizations to be assisted by the charity concert since it came to The Colosseum stage in 2013.

In addition to being the Windsor Essex Food Bank Association president, June is also the Chief Executive Officer of the Unemployed Help Centre of Windsor, where Eyes On Windsor spent some time chatting with her. June talked about the upcoming Sleighing Hunger concert, local food banks, and the need for them in our community this past Friday (Nov. 23).

This is the fifth year in a row the S’Aints Sleighing Hunger Concert is being held in collaboration with St. Clair College, and Caesars Windsor. The band puts their own rock stylings on some traditional Christmas tunes and not-so-traditional rock classics. Each year The S’Aints release an accompanying holiday album in conjunction with the concert. They’ll be performing songs from their latest release, “Love Is The Answer”, plus some from their previous holiday albums.

Members of the S'Aints Band, from left Kelly Hoppe, Kelly Authier, Wes Buckley, Stephanie Baker, Jeff Burrows, Jody Raffoul, and David Cyrenne

Members of the S’Aints Band, from left Kelly Hoppe, Kelly Authier, Wes Buckley, Stephanie Baker, Jeff Burrows, Jody Raffoul, and David Cyrenne, following a sneak peak performance at Caesars Windsor on Monday, Nov. 5, 2018. The band in collaboration with Caesars Windsor Cares, and St. Clair College announced this year’s 5th annual Sleighing Hunger Holiday Concert set for Dec. 21 will benefit a record 16 local food banks. Photo by Eric Bonnici.

The S’Aints Founding members Jody Raffoul and Tea Party Drummer Jeff Burrows are joined by local and world-renowned talents: Wes Buckley, Kelly “Mr. Chill” Hoppe, David Cyrenne, Kelly Authier, Marty Bak, and ‘The Twisted Sisters’ (Liz Robinson and Stephanie Baker). The show also features special guests ‘The Sinners’ choir, and ‘The Horns of a Dilemma’.

“The concert is so fun, Jody Raffoul and all the band members in the S’Aints are just an awesome band, I’ve been to each concert and it gets better each and every year, and I can’t say enough about the show that they put on,” explained June. The current S’Aints Holiday Album is available for purchase, “I buy one every year because each one is different, and those proceeds come back to us, it is a great fundraiser, a great opportunity for the Windsor Essex Food Bank Association, and without the three special sponsors we wouldn’t be able to get this money or have this opportunity.”

“The S’Aints have raised over $200,000 to date, it’s quite a bit of money, and the 15 food bank members are very appreciative. It’s sponsorships like this that do make a difference at Christmas time and also in January. So without them and others I don’t know what we would do,” stated June.

Members of The S'Aints band Kelly Hoppe and Jody Raffoul perform at Caesars Windsor during the Sleighing Hunger Concert on December 20, 2015.

The S’Aints Sleighing Hunger fundraising concert at Caesars Windsor back in 2015. In this photo performing are band members Kelly “Mr. Chill” Hoppe (left) and Jody Raffoul. Photo by Brent Groh / Eyes On Windsor.

With reports of low unemployment rates in the Windsor Essex County area an increased need for food banks doesn’t seem to make sense. To understand the 10% increase in use of food banks June explained that more than ever before, people are not able to find full time, well paying jobs.

“When we hear those numbers, we don’t realize that many people are working part time jobs, and procurious work. A lot of people are earning minimum wage, and of course we have people on Ontario Works and Ontario Disability, seniors, newcomers to the country, and youth unemployment is very high.” So while the unemployment rate might be low, so are household incomes. “We have a diverse population utilizing our food bank, and you wouldn’t utilize a food bank unless you had too. If you’re earning minimum wage, and you’re trying to keep up with housing, hydro, and other costs, there’s no money left to buy food.”

“In Windsor we lost many of those high paying jobs about ten years ago, so a lot of people are working different shifts, three jobs, their shift might not be a straight 8 hour shift, it might be divided in the day. How do you buy a house, how do you buy a car, how do you get that loan when it’s procurious work?”

“I’m not sure if you know this but 1 in 4 children live in poverty in Windsor. When I first learned about it, it made me really sad. It goes back to parents probably living on low incomes and paying those high rent costs. It’s very difficult for some people to find housing, a single person that’s on a low income or on Ontario Works is not getting a lot of money each month. There’s not a lot of money at the end of the day to buy food. So it’s very important that if we can help these individuals and families that we all do. I think it’s everybody’s responsibility to help and make sure people have food on the table.”

With the need for food banks clearly illustrated with the above points, and many more June shared during the interview, she explained how the much needed funds from The S’Aints concert will benefit the food bank association. The funds will not only support food banks during the Christmas season but more importantly help carry them through January and early new year when donations typically slow down. Funds will also help the food banks purchase items that are not usually donated, “we will use that money to purchase things that we normally don’t get. Examples, are meat, eggs, yogurt, shampoo, and milk.”

“It (the concert) does truly make a difference,” added June. “It’s always nice to think of others, not only at Christmas but throughout the year, so if you can, attend this concert because it’s going to make such a difference.”

June is hoping to see a full house at the concert because it’s a way for families to enjoy a night of entertainment while supporting the community at the same time. “It’s a benefit because you’re buying a ticket, your seeing a great concert, and you’re giving back to your community, it’s a win-win for everyone.”

Jeff Burrows Drumming With The S'Aints

Jeff Burrows drumming during the annual S’Aints Sleighing Hunger concert at Caesars Windsor back in 2015. Photo by Brent Groh / Eyes On Windsor.

The S’Aints Sleighing Hunger concert takes place at Caesars Windsor on Dec. 21, tickets are $25 each and available at Devonshire Mall, Caesars Windsor, The Unemployed Help Centre. The band’s new holiday album, “Love Is The Answer”, is available for purchase. 100% of proceeds from ticket and album sales will support the Windsor Essex Food Bank Association and Outreach For Hunger.

For more information, or to purchase tickets or the latest album visit https://www.sleighinghunger.com

Details about the concert can also be found on the S’aints Sleighing Hunger Christmas Concert event listing in the Eyes On Windsor events calendar.

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S’Aints Sleighing Hunger Concert To Benefit A Record 16 Food Banks

Concert photos by Brent Groh / Eyes On Windsor

Brent Groh of Milestone Photography Studio has gone on assignment covering events for Eyes On Windsor. Milestone Photography Studio is built by photographers for photographers. Find out more about the studio at http://milestonestudios.ca