Third-annual Jamming for Jackets employs music to make a difference

Over the last couple years, the people behind the Jamming for Jackets fundraiser have shone a light on Thompson’s most vulnerable citizens through music.

This year’s line-up of classic rock, folk and hip-hop acts at the Juniper Centre Oct. 12 drew a decently sized crowd, who contributed a total of $502 in donations, 85 winter jackets, 61 pairs of ski pants and three bags of non-perishable food items.

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According to event organizer Josh Deschambeault, the funds raised during this year’s event will be donated to the Nisichawayasihk Cree Nation, the YWCA and the Thompson homeless shelter.

Outside of showcasing the talents of Northern Manitoba acts like the Richard Farrow Band, the Average Joes and A Rebel Named Riel, this fundraiser also featured a number of guest speakers who talked about poverty, addiction and homelessness, and how those issues impact the local community, especially during winter.

Thompson Coun. Blake Ellis mentioned that, as of February 2016, the local homeless population sat at 118 people, with 30 of those individuals still needing shelter.

Speaker Cynthia Lathlin, representing the Northern Regional Health Authority, mentioned that Indigenous peoples are vastly over-represented in this group, with some studies suggesting that they use shelters at a rate 10 times higher than the general population. 

Thursday’s fundraiser also featured a short speech from a localresident known as “Smiling” Tommy, who talked about how years of alcohol abuse lead him down a dark path of addiction and violence.   

However, today Tommy said that he wants to turn his life around and is dedicated to non-violence and becoming a productive member of society. 

“I’m really proud of myself. What I’m doing right now. I don’t hurt nobody,” he said. “I’m just glad that I wake up on the right side of the grass and people recognize me as a person now.”

Over the past three years, Jamming for Jackets has raised close to $2,000 for local programs and has collected more than 1,500 pounds of warm clothing to be distributed locally. 

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