Award-winning gospel singer Ali Matthews is lending a helping hand at the Calvary United Church in St. Jacobs this month, singing for a crowd and for a good cause.
The three-time Gospel Music Association Female Vocalist of the Year will be on hand to sing some gospel favourites for the audience on Feb. 27 in the church to raise money for the Syrian refugee cause, but more specifically, the family the church sponsored as a group.
Matthews has released seven albums, all receiving critics’ stamps of approval, and has been nominated for 36 Gospel Music Association awards over the past ten years, winning a record 18.
She was a winner in the 2006 International Songwriting Competition, The Canadian National Songwriting Competition, The Word Guild Canadian Writers Awards and she was named Woman of the Year in the City of Stratford, where she lives, for her outstanding contribution to the arts.
A graduate of The University of Western Ontario, where she studied English and Drama, Matthews maintains that songwriting is her natural passion
Lori Silverthorne is the chair of the church’s refugee committee and says the family is settling in nicely since they arrived in Kitchener, integrating themselves into the community with the help of the church congregation.
“We are actively engaged with them, so we see them regularly. They are doing very well. We have two young men in the family, and they have enrolled in high school in the English program. It has been quite an amazing experience, for us too,” she said, adding that the church is only asking for the audience to give what they can. “We are doing it through a goodwill offering, so we aren’t charging a set admission. You never really know what you are going to fundraise. It depends on who shows up and how generous they are.”
Even though the church group doesn’t have a specific fundraising goal for the concert, Silverthorne says all money collected goes directly to the sponsored family.
“Our fundraising all goes into our refugee fund, specifically for the refugees. We are sponsoring them for a year and we are part of a blended program with the government. The government supports them for part of the year, and we provide them, not just with financial support, but also the settlement support and getting them settled and enrolled in school,” she said, mentioning there was still some ways to go. “Everything else, as it comes down the road, like jobs, depending on where they want to go.”
The family, consisting of a mother in her 50s and her two sons, were in Lebanon before they came to Kitchener in December, and have plenty of expenses, from rent, to food, to clothing. The government supports the family, at a social assistance level, for six months, but the rest of the year is up to their sponsors – the Calvary United Church.
Before the family arrived in Canada, the church’s fundraising goal was $30,000 for the year, and this concert is just one of the many efforts being put together to reach that goal. They have also previously held a pork and beef dinner to raise money for the family’s stay.
The show starts at 7:30 p.m. at Calvary United Church in St. Jacobs on Feb. 27. For more information about the concert, or to donate to the sponsorship of the refugee family, call 519-664-2311 or visit www.calvaryunited.com.