Powell Street Festival's successful telethon for Downtown Eastside meal program raises over $60,000

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      A fundraising effort by a local organization has been a roaring success, even if they weren’t able to hold one of the city’s longest-running annual festivals in person.

      The 44th annual Powell Street Festival was held online this year, rather than in its usual location in Oppenheimer Park in the Downtown Eastside, due to COVID-19.

      The focus this year was to raise funds for the organization’s PowellStFest Community Kitchen.

      The kitchen program is part of its social-justice programs and part of its DTES Community Cares Program.

      In order to raise funds for the program, the festival held a telethon, hosted by Tetsuro Shigematsu and Yurie Hoyoyon. It featured arts and entertainment from a range of musicians, artists, performers, storytellers, and more, on August 1.

      While the original goal was to raise $20,000, the festival subsequently boosted the goal to raise $40,000.

      In the end, the festival surpassed that goal as well and raised a whopping $64,389 for the PowellStFest Community Kitchen, which will launch in the autumn. The kitchen will employ four individuals from the DTES who will help to cook 200 meals for those in the area.

      The Powell Street Festival Society (PSFS) will also look into how it can uses its cultural and equipment assets to help the neighbourhood.

      This program will become a part of the DTES Community Kitchen Network, which was revived as part of the neighbourhood’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

      “As the health of the Downtown Eastside is directly linked to the health of the Festival, we are deeply committed to the wellbeing of the neighborhood and its current residents,”  PSFS president Edward Takayanagi stated in a news release. We look forward to redoubling our efforts to foster and strengthen the resilience, vitality, and health of the neighborhood.”

      The telethon provided employment for DTES residents.

      The festival also staged the Giving Ceremony to present gifts to DTES community partners, and the distribution of 1,500 care packages for neighbourhood individuals, with funding from Vancouver Foundation’s COVID Response Fund, during the week of July 27.

      The DTES is the location of the former Paueru-gai (パウエル街), or the Japanese Canadian community neighbourhood that became referred to as Japantown before all Japanese Canadians on the B.C. coast were forcibly removed by the Canadian government during the Second World War. 

      The PSFS states that in the 1970s, numerous efforts emerged to honour Japanese Canadian history in the neighbourhood.     

      Those who missed the telethon can watch it online, in five parts uploaded on YouTube.

      You can follow Craig Takeuchi on Twitter at @cinecraig or on Facebook.