|Garry Jespersen will perform at the Gospel Music Concert to benefit Kelowna's Gospel Mission.|
Last year alone, Jespersen played 56 concerts and this year, he's already off to a great start and is gearing up to perform at the Kelowna Community Theatre as part of the annual fundraiser for Kelowna Gospel Mission.
"I think this will be the 15th year that we've done this," said Jespersen during a recent interview.
"A bunch of friends get together and rent out the Kelowna Community Theatre. We pay for everything so that every cent of the money raised at the offering goes right to the Kelowna Gospel Mission," he said.
Why does he focus his efforts on the Gospel Mission? "I like what they do," said Jespersen.
He also understands first hand what it's like to be in need of a hand up.
"I was an orphan. My father shot himself when I was three months old and then I was thrown into homes and knocked around so much," recalled Jespersen.
"I never used to tell this story because it's very sad," he continued, "but I've been sharing it more because there are families going through problems and I see kids being abused."
Jespersen was kept up in the attic of a foster house. "I don't remember the man but the lady was getting money for keeping me and they'd just leave me up there. I'd cry and she'd slap me and tell me to go to sleep."
Thankfully, that changed when he was five and finally was adopted by the Jespersens. "They were a wonderful family," he said, "but I was so scared."
That led to running away several times and getting into trouble. Things got so bad that at one point, Jespersen was considering jumping off a bridge to just end it all.
But fate had other plans.
"That night totally changed my life," he said, as it caused him to find his faith and reconnect with his parents, which then set him on a whole new course that included going to bible study school.
Looking around town now, he recognizes the familiar sight of people who are lost and going through similar struggles he once had to cope with. He carries bags of potato chips around in his vehicle to give to the homeless or people he sees who are in need of uplifting; he gives benefits and plays in churches.
"I've always done that," he noted, matter-of-factly.
"I do one for the Westbank Food Bank every year and I was doing one for the Women's Haven every year too but someone else is doing that now - I'm getting old," he mused.
How old is old?
"I'll be 88 in September, in 10 years," he replied, watching with a smile on his face while I did the math in my head to arrive at 77.
"I'm always joking," he laughed.
Music has been a big part of Jespersen's life. Although his work life involved real estate development, insurance and mortgages, he always had a passion for music.
"At age five they noticed I was tinkering on the piano, so at age six they got me into the Royal Conservatory lessons," he said.
After six years of playing by the book, he became intrigued while listening to the radio, about how he might be able to learn to play by ear. "This guy on the radio in Edmonton kept talking about playing by ear, so I took two years of lessons from him."
It wasn't long before he could play just about anything. "Sometimes I'll be playing at some of the seniors homes and they'll ask me, 'What song was that?' I just like to make them up," he said, his eyes twinkling.
He's also done tours across Central and South America with HCJB Radio. "I did a bunch of volunteer work building buildings for Wycliffe Bible Translators," he said, adding, "I just like helping organizations."
Jespersen has several CDs to his credit, most of which are entitled Musical Moments numbered one through 10. There is also one called Musical Moments Love Songs. He plays piano and saxophone, and sings.
Joining Jespersen in concert will be the Valley Gentlemen, Denise Kellerman and the Good News Quartet.
There is no charge for admission to the concert but donations and a freewill offering will be gratefully accepted.
The Gospel Mission served up 142,000 meals last year. They also offer shelter to the homeless, addiction and recovery services, a thrift store and a free dental clinic to those in need.
To find out how you can help them, visit their website at kelownagospelmission.ca.
What: Gospel Music Concert
Where: Kelowna Community Theatre
When: Sunday, Jan. 27 at 6:30 p.m.
Tickets: Free but an offering will be taken with 100% going to Kelowna's Gospel Mission