For members of Kingston’s unhoused population, life on the streets can be an unimaginable challenge at the best of times. With the colder winter weather beginning to set in throughout eastern Ontario, those experiencing homelessness are forced to find ways to stay safe and warm during the long, cold winter nights.
Mindful of the difficult circumstances many find themselves in at this time of year, one local musician is one again stepping up to ensure people have warm clothing to help them brave the harsh winter weather. For seven years Tim Sheffield (a.k.a. Clem Chesterfield) has organized the Warm Clothes Round-Up, an annual holiday concert in support of the Kingston Street Mission. This Sunday, Dec. 17, 2023, the concert returns for its seventh year at The Mansion, located at 506 Princess Street, with Clem Chesterfield and the LA-Z Boy Recliners headlining alongside an array of local artists.
For Sheffield, the event is a poignant reminder of the power of the arts.
“Music is, as I see it, here for healing, and here to change the course of someone’s day, one song at a time,” he said. “So when you get everybody assembled in one place to do that, it brings a lot of really great energy… That’s what makes this thing go around.”
This Sunday’s event takes place from 2 to 5 p.m. on the main floor of The Mansion. Those in attendance are encouraged to bring donations of warm clothing for the Kingston Street Mission. Everything from toques and gloves to snow pants and jackets will be accepted.
What began in 1998 as a mobile food truck offering warm meals and clothing to those in need, the Kingston Street Mission now operates out of a location at 218 Concession Street, offering warmth, food, clothing items, blankets, and sleeping bags to those experiencing homelessness. The organization offers services from November through March, helping some of Kingston’s most vulnerable residents survive the harsh winter nights.
As for what inspired him to start the Warm Clothes Round-Up several years ago, Sheffield explained he was led by a desire to make a collective difference.
“If you educate yourself about what’s happening, you realize that there’s so many reasons why it’s happening. Individually, we can’t tackle that, but as a community we can,” he said.
After witnessing the work of Marilyn McLean and the team at Kingston Street Mission and their ability to help those in need, Sheffield said he knew it was the right organization to support through the concert.
“I got to see it firsthand and I [thought], these guys could use [some support]. You can see the basic [things] that they need, such as clothing, mitts, and toques,” he noted.
After focusing exclusively on clothing items during the first several years of the event, the concert now includes an appeal for other items, such as menstrual hygiene products. Sheffield said, “It became apparent [that other items were needed], so we started to also include hygiene essentials and things that people [who already have them] don’t think about,” he remarked.
As well as donations of clothing and other items, members of the public can also make monetary donations to Kingston Street Mission, which will help the organization carry out its important work throughout the upcoming winter months.
“We always collect a bit of cash, usually a couple hundred dollars,” Sheffield noted.
Since its inception in 2017, Sheffield said the Warm Clothes Round-Up has raised a considerable amount of money for Kingston Street Mission, in addition to the countless warm clothing items and other essentials which have been donated over the years. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the event went virtual, and organizers continued to raise money and spread awareness for the cause.
For those wondering which clothing items are most needed this winter, Sheffield noted Kingston Street Mission has expressed a high demand for “jogging and sleeping pants” as well as “winter coats.”
“It’s basically just stuff that we need to get through the winter,” he added.
While people are welcome to donate new and unused items, in addition to cash, Sheffield said the event is also an opportunity for people to offload items they may no longer wear themselves: “For some people, it’s [a chance] to let go of things in bulk and free up space, which has its own merits of success.”
With a full slate of performers set to share the stage throughout Sunday’s three-hour concert, the event should have something to offer all local music lovers. The show will kick off at 2 p.m. with a performance by Clem Chesterfield and the La-Z Boy Recliners.
Sheffield joked the performance has been a long time coming, after he and Chesterfield fell out of touch this past spring.
“Clem hasn’t been around for a while. He went off in the spring for what I assumed was just a routine fence ride. He’s got quite the acreage to ride around on. And then I never heard from him; I’ve not seen him. Nothing. So I wasn’t even sure if this was going to happen this year,” he remarked with a laugh.
“Then, of course, he comes out of the woodwork a few weeks ago and declares he’s going to help out. That’s the way it is. He’s the singer, and I just write the songs,” Sheffield said in reference to the two’s relationship.
Later on Sunday, additional performers will be welcomed to the stage, including The Mill*Rights, Lisa Leeman, Tom Savage, Jon McLurg, Paula Wood, and LazerBear.
Despite being in support of a serious cause, Sheffield noted Sunday’s concert is meant to be a light-hearted and festive affair: “The reason behind the show is fairly heavy and has a sombre tone at any time of year, but this is really a ‘hoedown.’ It’s designed to have people come up and do two to three songs each. Some of the bigger groups will do four or five songs.”
With the event taking place just one week prior to Christmas, Sheffield said the concert will finish off with some popular holiday songs.
“Everyone’s going to play with everybody. There will be some people who just walk in and end up on stage,” he added.
Audience members can bring their clothing donations with them to The Mansion on Sunday, as members of Kingston Street Mission will be on hand to receive the items. Sheffield explained, “They don’t usually do too many shows right on the main floor [of The Mansion]… but they always let us because it’s super convenient for people to just bring their clothes in. Then we’ll have some volunteers… taking the donations.”
Last year, the event raised over $500 for the Kingston Street Mission, in addition to 20 garbage bags full of clothing items which were received the day of the concert.
The 2023 Warm Clothes Round-UP takes place on Sunday, Dec. 17, 2023 from 2 to 5 p.m. at the Mansion, 506 Princess Street.