When Anna Atkinson was growing up, she learned firsthand how meaningful the gift of charitable giving can be for a family in need on Christmas Day.
“I remember one Christmas we were looking at Kraft Dinner and hot dogs for Christmas dinner,” she said, looking back.
“And a local woman, she was actually one of the nuns at the Catholic church, arrived on our doorstep and I don’t know how she magic’ed it up but she had an entire Christmas dinner in a cardboard box. And that has just stayed with me my whole life.”
Atkinson, now an English professor at Vancouver Island University, said her family would sometimes rely on food banks to keep their stomachs full when money got tight. Later in life, as a young single mother, she would again turn to food banks when times were tough. Now, she’s returning the favour.
“It’s just really stayed with me that we all can be that vulnerable and we all need that kind of help and this is just one way that I can use my voice to just make a difference,” she said.
In Atkinson’s case, she means that literally. Aside from her duties at the university, Atkinson is also a Celtic singer and musician and on Dec. 17 she is holding her fifth annual charity concert at Cedar United Church.
The concert, Roses in Winter: A Garland of Carols, will feature Atkinson and her band — singers Elisabeth Strain and Toni Smith, penny whistle player Brian Bonnell, Robert Pepper-Smith on Irish bouzouki and pianist Hope Leith.
Proceeds from the show will go towards the Loaves and Fishes Community Food Bank as well as Cedar United’s seniors’ services and its Messy Church program, co-sponsored by St. Philip’s Anglican Church, which offers family activities and a free meal once a month.
“We are going to sing carols old and new. Ones that are familiar. Ones that are quite unusual,” Atkinson said.
“I love to sing and love the Celtic repertoire and … I really love weird Christmas carols. So if you come to the concert you can expect some stuff you’ve never heard before.”
Atkinson describes herself as “a researcher by trade and by nature,” and enjoys searching for lesser-known Christmas songs. Some of her discoveries are centuries old, in Latin and from places like Denmark and Moravia. From there she sits down with guitars and a piano and comes up with an arrangement.
She said she has no fundraising goal, she just hopes to pack the church.
“Mostly what I would love people to do is buy a ticket and come out and fill the place and let’s have a wonderful celebration of Christmas,” she said.
“I would just love to be able to give them that money to do whatever they need to do with it to help people the way people need to be helped.”
WHAT’S ON … Roses in Winter: A Garland of Carols featuring Anna Atkinson comes to Cedar United Church on Sunday, Dec. 17 at 7 p.m. Tickets are $15. Proceeds benefit the church and the Loaves and Fishes Community Food Bank.