Pianist Shelley Eckstein is one of the performers entertaining at Elves and Artists: A Holiday Concert this Friday at the White Rock Playhouse. (Contributed photo)

Elves and Artists: A Holiday Concert returns Friday

Performance to raise funds and awareness for the Avalon Recovery Society

There’s no better way to get into the holiday spirit than by thinking of helping others. That’s the objective of Avalon Recovery Centre’s second annual Elves and Artists: A Holiday Concert, which takes place this Friday (Nov. 22, 7 p.m.) at the White Rock Playhouse, 1532 Johnston Rd.

It’s an opportunity to raise funds and awareness for the Avalon Recovery Society, a registered non-profit providing free services to women in recovery from addictions, which can include everything from childcare to clothing, counselling, resources and drop-in support.

It’s also an entertaining evening of music to demonstrate the talents of White Rock’s Avalon community, friends and supporters; performing a mix of holiday songs, crowd favourites and original numbers.

Among the nine artists appearing will be jazz, operatic and folk singers, as well as “two very talented pianists,” said Leanne Utendale, who started as White Rock’s centre manager a year and a half ago.

“We have our successful annual tea and fashion show each spring, but what I kept hearing was that we needed to do something new and different,” she said, adding that the first show last year was so well-received that it’s become another regular Avalon event, augmenting, rather than replacing the spring show.

“All the performers are friends, or friends of friends,” she noted. “Every single one is a supporter or, in one way or another connected with Avalon.

“It’s a holiday concert, but also very relaxed. Last year everyone involved was laughing and having a great time. Some people are family, but all the volunteers feel like family. There was just this great feeling of having participated in something that is truly part of the community.”

While raising funds for services is important, it’s also a chance “to let people know we’re here,” Utendale said.

The Avalon centre has become a warm and welcoming refuge for women needing some time out of the stresses and strains of their daily lives, Utendale said – a place where they know that they can find friendly and understanding support, and where they feel comfortable bringing their children to the centre’s playroom.

“It’s a place of safety and anonymity,” she said.

The Avalon centres (there’s also one in Vancouver and one in the North Shore) offer counselling based on a 12-step recovery program, but there’s no single profile for those who seek help.

“These are women who may be recovering from addictions, but also from trauma, loss and co-dependency,” Utendale said.

The current opioid crisis has demonstrated that the people losing their lives or their friends to drugs is not simply a problem of the Downtown East Side, she added.

But alcoholism is also an insidious and often hidden problem in our stressful world, Utendale noted.

“What we’re seeing is a lot of the ‘mommy needs wine’ moms,” she said. “It’s becoming normal – socially it’s almost expected. But it does cause health problems.”

Whatever the problems and the steps toward recovery, the Avalon centres are ultimately about providing a place of safety, Utendale said, and an example of another way of living.

And events like Elves and Artists are very much part of that vision, she said.

“It isn’t just about recovering from something, it’s about being part of our own community,” she said.

“It’s about giving back, living a full life and having fun.”

Tickets ($30) are available online from whiterockplayers.ca or at the theatre box office, 604-536-7535.


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