A force to be reckoned with

By Andrea Tomkins –

When Kitchissippi resident, veteran broadcast journalist and communications strategist Anna-Karina Tabuñar saw the devastation of Typhoon Haiyan she knew she had to do something, but she felt that writing a cheque just wasn’t going to be enough.

“I saw all those images, and I thought, what do I do? I realized that a cheque is a drop in the bucket. The need is enormous,” says Tabuñar. She considered hosting a fundraising dinner, but after she did the math she figured it was “still just a drop in the bucket.”

Anna-Karina Tabuñar says “this is going to be the biggest and baddest event of the season. It’s going to show how loving the Kitchissippi community really is.” Photo by Andrea Tomkins.
Anna-Karina Tabuñar says “this is going to be the biggest and baddest event of the season. It’s going to show how loving the Kitchissippi community really is.” Photo by Andrea Tomkins.

A few phone calls later, she quickly found herself with a team. They decided the answer was a big neighborhood party.

Tabuñar took it upon herself to find the venue. It didn’t take long for that part of the puzzle to be solved.

“The Orange Art Gallery was happy to accommodate us,” says Tabuñar. “While I was doing this, Daphne Guerrero – who lives in Hintonburg  – was contacting local businesses. She told them we don’t have a date, we don’t have a place, but we’re collecting money for the Philippines.”

That’s when their modest outreach really started to gather momentum.

“People in the neighbourhood offered up services to auction. For instance, $500 of personal fitness training from Modus Vivendi Crossfit. And we had nothing to show except our good will. And so now we’re at the point we have a venue, a date, and a time. And I’ve got about a dozen volunteers, just like that. I’m in awe.”

Tabuñar has family in the Philippines – not in the affected areas – but friends of family are there. Watching the news has been an impossible task.

“You can’t get away from the images,” says Tabuñar. “I haven’t watched television since Monday (November 11). For me, this is almost therapeutic. It’s better for me to be channeling my energy into something that energizes me and makes me happy and restores my faith, and makes me so proud to live in this neighbourhood.”

Her fundraising event has been dubbed the Holiday Block Party for the Philippines, and it will be taking place on Tuesday, December 3 from 4:30 p.m.-8:00 p.m. at the Orange Art Gallery at 23 Armstrong Street.

“This will be the holiday party, to get everyone in the spirit of giving,” says Tabuñar. “It’s going to be a fantastic holiday block party, because it’s really the whole block, the whole neighbourhood coming together.”

“This is one of the best communities in the world,” says Tabuñar. “We truly are neighbours. We are a community, and that’s what it’s all about. It’s people helping people, families helping other families. We really are this tiny army, with huge vision and heart. It has attracted so much energy and good will.”

Everything for the event has been donated, right down to graphic design (Butter and Honey Graphics) and poster printing (Gilmore Printing Services). Tabuñar is thrilled that local businesses have responded so warmly to her requests.

“Businesses have told us they’re happy to Tweet it out and share it on Facebook,” says Tabuñar. “So my simple request is going to get magnified a thousandfold because of these businesses with big hearts.”

She’s hoping to raise $25,000 at the event, a sum that will be matched by Unicef and the Government of Canada.

Tickets are $25 each and include Filipino-style nibbles, live music, surprise door prizes, and a silent auction. Items for auction include hotel stays, self-pampering treats, and original art. Local artist Andrew King has donated a sketch of the Elmdale Tavern, and one local chef is auctioning off a four-course gourmet meal – with food – for ten people. (You’ll have to come out and see who it is.)

It’s been an incredible amount of work, but Tabuñar has had no problem staying motivated.

“As tired as I am from working the phones and having to juggle all these balls in the air, I am energized,” she laughs. Her little “army” of volunteers feel the same way.

“They’re super charged. Right now all of the sadness, the devastation and the feelings of helplessness are pushed aside by this amazing event.”

Despite the magnitude of the devastating typhoon, the outpouring of support and the desire to help has restored Tabuñar’s faith in humanity.

“I’ve never done anything like this before. I am just astounded. When you have the intention to do something good, people will help you,” says Tabuñar.

“There’s no limit to human kindness. And that’s what I’ve seen.”

For tickets and more information go to www.blocklove.ca.

Leave a comment