Entertainer Tom Jackson swings into town tomorrow to host Swinging for Supper, a fundraiser for the Mobile One soup kitchen.
Born on the One Arrow reserve in Saskatchewan and raised in Winnipeg, Tom left school at the age of 15 and spent seven years living on the back streets of Winnipeg. He credits this experience for the foundation of his character; tenacity, leadership, a determination to succeed and an altruistic capacity to care for others.
“We had worked with Tom Jackson in a series called Singing for Supper,” says Sean Tobin, executive director of Mobile One. “They were a series of Christmas concerts that he did for us.
“Tom has been long involved in helping food banks and food kitchens in the western provinces, but we convinced him to come out here, and this is the only food bank in the province of New Brunswick that benefits from this event.”
This is the fourth season of Swinging for Supper. This golf tour raises funds and awareness for food banks and agencies serving at-risk youth in five centres across Canada; Moncton, Halifax, Winnipeg, Regina and Calgary.
Just as the perfect golf swing requires form, rhythm and follow-through, these tournaments strive for the same excellence. Revenue from the 2008 tour exceeded $127,000.
“Tom Jackson has one of the most remarkable stories of any person I know,” says Steve Berube, who golfed with Tom in last year’s fundraiser. “He was down and out on the street, sleeping in the gutter, and one day some guy came along and reached out to him in concern.
“When you look at someone whose story involves living on the street in absolute poverty and now being the humanitarian he is, it is an incredible thing to be in the presence of someone who is an actual hero.”
Swinging for Supper combines music and golf to brand this unique fundraising event. Each community hosts a casual “kitchen party” the evening before the tournament featuring regional cuisine and entertainment by Tom Jackson with fellow musicians Tom McKillip and Craig Bignell.
This invitation-only party for sponsors and special guests of the host committee serves as the perfect lead in to the next days’ golf, camaraderie and hospitality. The intent is to solidify relationships between supporters and the charity long after the golf season has slipped away.
“Mobile One is struggling towards financial self-sufficiency,” says Sean. “We have no federal money, and only seven per cent of the budget comes from the province and 13 per cent from the municipality. The city pays for the $8,000 worth of fuel we use a year.”
But, all told, only 20 per cent of Mobile One’s funding comes from government agencies, the rest is made up through fundraisers and individual gifts.
Last year Swinging for Supper raised $14,000.
“We don’t expect to make that much this year,” says Sean. “We are looking at more like $10,000 because of the recession; many people have come to realize that they are very close to financial disaster, and to ask them for more on top of that is a little much.”
At the same time, the needs are becoming greater.
“At a time where every agency serving the needs of Canadians is expanding, there is a need to engage and ensure previous and new supporters stay on track with their community giving,” Tom Jackson said.
“Swinging for Supper draws corporate support both nationally and locally with gifting at the forefront. This event is the perfect way to encourage social responsibility by pairing Canada’s corporate elite with Canada’s caregivers in an atmosphere of music and golf.”
At last year’s event Tom auctioned himself off as a golf partner for 18 holes of golf, playing the front nine with one group, and the back nine with another.
“I was fortunate to be in the group that won the bid,” says Steve. “He came in, joined us, and he was just an ordinary guy, except very gracious.
“He engaged us in conversation, knew our names, and was a fun person to be around. He has probably been in the presence of some pretty important people in his day but he was out there with us hackers and making us feel like his friends.”
Tom Jackson is a big guy, well over six feet tall, and there is something about him that make him seem even bigger, says Steve.
“When he swoops down over the top of you to give you a hug, you feel you are being embraced by a gentle giant of a person,” Steve remembers. “He is incredibly loving, he took the time to go around at the tournament and literally said hello to every single person who was there; he was very gracious that way.
“The opportunity to support Mobile One is one thing, and a lot of people will turn out for that; but it was a really great day. The food was fabulous, the company was good, and it was very low stress.”
Last year Tom went for a ride on the bus he was helping to support, and commented that they could really use five of them in Calgary. In conversation afterward, Sean remembers that Tom really understood that it takes quite an organization to keep the bus operational.
Mobile One operates with only two part-time staff members, and over 200 volunteers but, last year, served over 36,000 meals.
And it’s the community of Metro Moncton that makes this possible, Sean says. “If we can give people something for the money they are giving, so much the better.”