Interview with Project HOTS organizer Kayla Forrest

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Kayla Forrest – Project HOTS organizer

Founded in December 2014, Project HOTS (Helping on the Streets) is a non-profit organization dedicated to helping those living on the streets or in shelters have the basic necessities of life. Organizer Kayla Forrest, who works a full-time job as she prepares to head back to school to study Emergency Telecommunications, kicked off a series of fundraising events in November 2015 with Get Off The Streets, an evening of music/spoken word/comedy at the Horseshoe Tavern (which I had the great pleasure to perform in). The mission is to raise funds, food, clothing and survival gear for the coming weather, and the Horseshoe show was followed by a second event in December at The Painted Lady, hosted by The Celebration Army. I spoke with Kayla about Project HOTS and their upcoming events.

LWMC: Hey, Kayla. Thanks for taking the time to talk about Project HOTS. How did this organization come about?

KF: You’re most welcome, always happy to spread the word about inspiring people to do random acts of kindness and help others. This organization was started by a friend, Lizzie Violet, and it was originally named Project Warmth. After my own project of putting together bags of food and survival gear for the homeless on the streets, and collecting a bunch of donations for the homeless shelters Horizons For Youth and also Fred Victors – Helping People Find Place And Purpose, Lizzie invited me into being a part of the organization of hers. This is something that means a lot to me, as we are all humans at the end of the day and it doesn’t matter how much or how little money you have, it’s about what kind of person you are to one another.

I ended up really getting into it and ran with the whole thing; she was super awesome and after a while let me take over the whole thing. So I ended up beginning to look into really taking it to the next level; when I researched the name to proceed with getting it certified and licensed, I found that there was already an organization in Alberta with the same name that began years before we did. So I went back to the drawing board and played with some name possibilities that were catchy and memorable. It was decided upon Project HOTS (helping on the streets) because in the winter you want to get warm, hey Project HOTS, and in the summer it’s pretty hot/warm, hey Project HOTS.

Project HOTS Exec Ass't Ashley King & Organizer Kayla Forrest
Project HOTS Exec Ass’t Ashley King & Organizer Kayla Forrest

So we kicked it into high gear with the name, had a friend of mine create the logo for us, and began to look into having merchandise created along with organizing fundraisers for the food/survival bags for the homeless on the streets.

LWMC: And what made you decide to launch the music/spoken word fundraising events?

KF: Lizzie suggested doing fundraisers, as I was paying for everything along with a few other volunteers for the food/survival bags and that we’d be able to make more of the kits if we did fundraisers. I avidly support the local arts (music, spoken word, etc.) scene, so asking the local performers if they’d like to be part of it along with choosing local venues was the next step.

LWMC: How has the response to the events been so far?

KF: The fundraiser events turned out amazingly awesome, with so many people supporting helping the homeless stuck on the streets and those in shelters that were lucky enough to get into them. The shows consist of bands, solo singers, spoken word, poets and comedians; along with raffles for gift bags put together by myself and the performers that volunteer for the show, along with other band merchandise donated to us by the incredibly awesome local performers. So far, we have had two events and currently a third one is being planned. We are also working on having a home base venue as well, so there will be semi-annual fundraiser shows a year for the semi-annual street donation drives.

LWMC: Tell us a bit about what happens after you receive donations. How does the food, clothing, survival gear, etc., get distributed?

KF: The donations are collected and accumulated at my place, then it’s all packed into my car and brought to the only homeless shelter (to my knowledge and as informed to me by the staff there) in Canada that take in homeless with animals, Fred Victor – Helping People Find Place And Purpose. I’m a complete animal lover, so this is something that really touched my heart. They furnish the residents rooms and also help them out when they get places of their own.

As for the food and survival gear that’s donated, I put together grocery bags with one or two of everything that was donated, or that we buy with the money raised from the fundraiser shows along with my own. I’m an avid believer that a non-profit organization should actually mean making nothing at all from the donations given as I spend my own money on the food/survival items along with buying merchandise for the fundraiser shows. To me, it just doesn’t make sense taking someone’s money for dedicating my time to a cause that shouldn’t have to be a cause since everyone should just care for and help one another no matter who you are in the world.

Then the volunteers are split into teams and given maps of the city I print out for different zones, load their cars up with grocery bags of food and survival gear, then they’re off to drive/roam the city streets looking for homeless to hand them out to.

LWMC: You’re mounting another event this spring at The Painted Lady. Do you have a date set yet?

KF: We absolutely love this venue as the staff and owners are absolutely incredible, so we’re working with the owners to find a date/time that works for everyone. It’ll be held in May though, as the next street donation drive will take place in June, but everyone can keep up-to-date with events and street donation drives on our Facebook and Twitter pages since the exact date has yet to be chosen.

LWMC: Can you give us a sneak peek as to who will be performing?

KF: It’s currently being worked on for the set list, but one of the performers that will for sure be there and opening for us will be the wonderfully awesome Supertash; who also is the writer for our organization’s theme song (which we totally snagged with her permission) “Listen To Your Heart.”

LWMC: Anything else coming up that you want to shout out?

KF: I want to let everyone know that we are always looking for new and upcoming performers for our shows. So if anyone has any interest in being part of one of the fundraisers, please feel free to contact us, as we will be having semi-annual shows, one in the spring and one in the winter every year.

LWMC: Anything in particular you guys need in way of donations right now?

KF: We are always accepting donations of clothing, household items, pet supplies (food, treats, bedding, toys, etc.) and survival gear for the streets and non-perishable food for the food care bags. We can either arrange a pick-up or drop-off point for the donations, or people are urged/welcome to bring them to the fundraiser shows as well. We do periodic drop-offs to the homeless shelter year-round every three to five weeks when we’ve accumulated a carload of things from people around the city.

LWMC: What do you do when you’re not working on Project HOTS?

KF: I work a full-time job, so any free time from work and the organization is spent at the gym, at local venues watching friends perform, reading, painting, writing, or randomly road-tripping and seeing where I end up.

LWMC: I like to close my interviews with the adapted Pivot questionnaire that James Lipton asks his guests on Inside the Actors Studio. What’s your favourite word?

KF: AWESOME!!!!!! You can’t help smiling when thinking/saying this awesome word.

LWMC: What’s your least favourite word?

KF: Hate. Such a strong angry word. <laughs>

LWMC: What turns you on?

KF: <laughs> This is really truly random, but definitely vanilla and intelligence. Intelligent vanilla? Is it a thing? It is now!

LWMC: What turns you off?

KF: Animal and child abusers… just no soooo hardcore!!

LWMC: What sound or noise do you love?

KF: Kittens purring, rain, kids giggling… but not in that like creepy children of the corn kind of way.

LWMC: What sound or noise do you hate?

KF: Any kind of sounds that come from a clown’s mouth. They should never be allowed to speak. Ever.

LWMC: What is your favourite curse word?

KF: Fuck. It’s so ridiculously versatile, plus as my mother taught me, it’s not what you say, it’s how you say it! Thanks mom! 😛

LWMC: What profession other than your own would you like to pursue?

KF: When I was a little girl, I used to want to be a lawyer so I could put away all the bad people, but now I realize that if I were a lawyer and the bad people got let go, I wouldn’t be able to hold myself back if it had anything to do with children and/or animals. Really, though, anything that is about helping people or animals would be super awesome to work as.

LWMC: What profession would you not like to do?

KF: I would definitely not like to work in a circus (other than it’s barbaric for the way they treat animals), but because they have clowns, and clowns freak me out to the absolute fullest amount. They should be outlawed. For good. Like forever banned.

LWMC: If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?

KF: Hmm… he’d probably laugh and say “It surprises me too that you actually made it up here.”

 

Thanks, Kayla!

Want to volunteer or donate to Project HOTS? For more info, email them at: projecthots@outlook.com

Rockin’ out with Supertash & guest Kat Leonard @ Breakdown EP launch party

unnamedIt was a super fantastic night of music, friends and celebration at 3030 Dundas West last night, with two reasons to party: Supertash launching her Breakdown EP and Kat Leonard’s birthday (with Leonard performing as the opening act)!

Leonard treated us to a sneak peek of her new solo show in progress My Selfie, a comedic, frank and thought-provoking piece on positive self/body image. More than just an ode to body parts, this is a singing, dancing, storytelling trip in and around the external self – and we are all so much more than the sum of those parts. Keep your eyes and ears peeled for future performances of My Selfie.

Supertash (aka Natasha Jolly) and band rocked our world with tunes from Breakdown, as well as some selections from her last record Before the World Ends. Featuring kick-ass vocals, outstanding musicianship and passionate lyrics – especially on the title track and “Serial Killer” (Supertash’s ode to Dexter) – as well as some soulful, keyboard-driven pop (“Control Freak,” which brings to mind the sounds of Sade), Breakdown is full of heart and edge. Joining Supertash onstage last night were: Frank Bartoletti (lead guitar), Dave Carreiro (bass), Rick Carreiro (drums) and Toad (keys/guitar/back-up vox).

You can check out Supertash’s music on Soundcloud and iTunes, and follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

Here’s a little taste of Breakdown – “Serial Killer”:

And here are some pix from last night’s music/birthday bash extravaganza:

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Wonder Women & Super Men rock The Central in Wonder Women 2013 fundraiser

Big fun times with amazing artists and friends at The Central on Saturday night for LMG Productions’ Super Wonderful New Year Kickoff fundraiser for the upcoming Wonder Women 2013 festival in March. Organizers and hosts Arlene Paculan and Kat Leonard (aka Musedy Tag Team) treated us to some tunes, including their new Michael Jackson mash-up, and some kick-ass raffle prizes, including CDs from participating artists and tickets to the upcoming Wonder Women concert on March 8.

This was one incredible party – and we were moved, rocked and amazed by feature acts of Wonder Women and, for the first time, Super Men – check them out:

Asleep in the Machine

Dread Eye

Matt Gerber

Linda Inthahack

Miquelon Rodriguez

Candice Sand

Supertash

Lizzie Violet

It was a reunion of sorts, and I got to see folks I hadn’t seen in a while, including some of the incredible open mic guests: Angela Saini, Meghan Morrison, Alyssa Vox Raw, Aynsley Saxe (who I finally got to meet in person after our ongoing chats over Twitter), JP Saxe and the Four Winds (Arlene Paculan, Heather Hill, Kat Leonard and Meghan Morrison, who got together on Hill’s song “27”), among others. Hanging out with these folks was like being enveloped in a big, warm hug – such an inspiring and supportive group of artists, family, friends and fans. With thanks to The Central staff for keeping us fed and beered all night. And, damn, those boneless chicken wings are good!

Shout out to Ellie Anderson, who was set to feature but was off sick. Hope you’re feeling better today, lady. And I was sorry to miss Candice Sand’s set, but it was getting late and I had some commitments on Sunday that required a good night’s sleep (more on that later).

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Linda Inthahack
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Arlene Paculan & Kat Leonard
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Angela Saini
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Supertash
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Matt Gerber
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Miquelon (aka Mickey) Rodriguez
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Dread Eye
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Aynsley Saxe
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Lizzie Violet
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Alyssa Vox Raw

This year, the Wonder Women fest will be a week long, happening during International Women’s Week (very fitting): March 4-8. The fest will include two concerts: Super Men (at The Central on March 7) and Wonder Women (at The Gladstone Hotel on March 8). Stay tuned for more details!

Girl power rawkin out @ Supertash “Before The World Ends” CD launch

What would you do if the world was gonna end on December 21, 2012? Rawk out, of course! Maybe some other things too, but this is a PG kinda blog, so I’ll leave that up to all y’all.

The countdown for Supertash’s Before The World Ends CD launch ended last night at the Gladstone Hotel, with some incredible talent taking to the stage for a super big fun, girl-power packed evening. Also on feature: jewelery made by Tash and Meghan’s awesome delicious cupcakes, as well as some very tasty catered nosh.

Throughout the evening, host Kat Leonard, accompanied by Arlene Paculan, treated us to some tunes of their own: a slowed down ballad version of Kat’s song “Jockstrap” (from Kat’s one-woman fangirl opus to Johnny Depp, A Depper Kind of Love), Arlene’s song “Nightmare” (also performed by Kat, including her own improv’d expletives) – then both singing the Whitney Houston/Bobby Brown mash-up medley they performed at Theatre Passe Muraille’s recent Songbook Series cabaret, with Kat doing an interpretive dance performance as Arlene performed vocals on the big “I Will Always Love You” finale. A great combo of music and comedy – irreverent, fun and passionate.

Sherry-Lynn Lee opened with a solo acoustic set, accompanying herself on guitar, moving us with a great range of pop, rock and soulful, melodious ballads – mixing her set of originals with covers “With or Without You” and “Someone Like You.” It was the first time I’ve heard her live – I’m looking forward to hearing more, and I took her music home on CD. Keep an ear out for this lady.

It had been a while since I saw Meghan Morrison performing with her full band – and I especially love the violin arrangements, which add a poetic, haunting quality to her songs. Opening with “This Song” – violin crying along with her voice, “the sound that my heart makes” – she moved into “Good People (Sideways),” a song inspired by an incident that occurred on the steps of the Gladstone Hotel a couple of years ago during Nuit Blanche. Showcasing Meghan’s great range – vocally, she’s been compared to Alanis Morissette, early Sarah McLachlan (circa Vox) and even Paula Cole – the band performed several songs from Meghan’s We Are All Born Naked CD, finishing with my fave “Hush,” which Meghan said she pretty much has to do every gig or else someone will be upset over the omission. Coming up: Meghan plays tomorrow night (Nov 13) at The Drake Hotel at 7:30 p.m. as a guest performer for the SUPERCELL screening by Tara Cooper – and look out for her monthly webcasts, featuring local indie music artists.

Another piece of trivia – and the jury is still out on whether this actually works or not. Apparently, eating a dollop of butter helps the voice when one is experiencing a dry cough. This remedy was thought up on the fly by Meghan and tried by Kat (who was dealing with a dry cough) – Kat says it works. Placebo or the real deal? Who knows.

After a brief break, the main event. Supertash (aka Tash Jolly) took over the stage with her band, treating us to three mini-sets, featuring tracks from the Before The World Ends CD and a an easy, soft acoustic guitar-driven solo set by Tash. This was one kick-ass, rawkin out at the end of the world experience. From the smokin’ hot, mysterious “Empty Hands,” which could easily be a James Bond movie theme song, to the unapologetic “No Coincidence” to the dreamy haze warning of “Blow Right Through You” and the soulful girl-power power ballad “Relief,” Supertash brought it.

It was a big fun evening of music and positive energy – and there were door prizes, where audience members submitted their superhero name and powers with their entry. Thanks to Tash for the awesome lightning bolt necklace – super hero powerful and Harry Potter magical! For a sneak peek at “Before The World Ends,” wrap your ears around these tracks on SoundCloud: http://soundcloud.com/supertash

Kat Leonard & Arlene Paculan
Sherry-Lynn Lee
Meghan Morrison & band
Meghan Morrison
Supertash – Tash Jolly
Supertash band – Frank Bartoletti (guitar) & Ed Mortenson (drums)
Supertash band – Dave Carreiro (bass) & Christina Melanie (keys)
Supertash – Tash Jolly w Frank Bartoletti
Supertash & band

Counting down to Supertash “Before The World Ends” CD launch – Sun, Nov 11

Looking for something to do in Toronto this Sunday night? Well search no more, dear readers.

Supertash (aka Tash Jolly) will be launching her “Before The World Ends” CD this Sunday, November 11 – 7 p.m. at the Gladstone Hotel. Hosted by Kat Leonard, with guests Arlene Paculan, Meghan Morrison and Sherry-Lynn Lee, and featuring Supertash – this is gonna be some big fun girl power evening. Check out the promo vid:

And give her a listen on SoundCloud: http://soundcloud.com/supertash

You can also check out this event on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/events/283965201723015/permalink/287693361350199/

I know where I’m gonna be on Sunday night. How ’bout you?