By Cal Braid
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Singers and musicians from the community will come together for the annual Kiwanis Community Christmas Carol Festival on Dec. 13 at 7:00 p.m. at the Taber Stake Centre.
Henk De Vlieger, president of Taber Kiwanis Club and a former town mayor, talked about the event and his work with Kiwanis International, a children’s service organization.
He said the Carol Festival has been running every year on the second Wednesday of December for over 40 years.
“We invite schools, churches, and other groups and always make sure it’s a cross-section of the community,” he said. The event will bring together different denominations and age groups as performers. Admission is free, a collection will be taken for charity, and food bank donations are welcomed.
The Kiwanis Club strives to prioritize children and youth.
“Our main thing is fundraising, and those funds we usually designate for activities for youth,” De Vlieger said. “For instance, we just gave $1,000 to the Air Cadets for buying a new flight simulator. There’s one girl who’s going to go to Europe to play basketball. She was chosen from southern Alberta and we gave her $500 towards her trip. We also do quite a bit for the food bank. These next couple of weeks we sit at Walmart collecting money that goes towards St. Vincent de Paul and the women’s shelter, where the real needs are. We do that always around Christmas. In the spring and early summer we organize a golf tournament, and all those proceeds go towards the hospital foundation, and that’s usually $30,000 to $40,000 that we donate. This year they bought a special bed for palliative care and a computer monitor. We always do it for a specific thing and it stays in Taber.”
De Vlieger called the Society of St. Vincent de Paul a “behind the scenes organization” that offers emergency assistance to those in need. The Society’s charitable impact web page describes their work, saying, “We visit the financially poor, sick, mobility impaired, aged and shut-ins, and those requiring assistance. We provide emergency financial assistance and other emergency services.” The Society helps to pay for rent, utilities, food, fuel and other items. They also distribute gently used furniture and household items and assist with the food bank and the Safe Haven women’s shelter.
De Vlieger said that the need for those kinds of services is growing. He estimates that he’s been with Kiwanis for about 35 years, and has been organizing the Carol Festival for the past six or seven years.