Bill Hillary presents a cheque for nearly $1,300 to the Slocan Valley Food Cupboard after fundraising online with a number of songs. Photo: Bill Hillary

Bill Hillary presents a cheque for nearly $1,300 to the Slocan Valley Food Cupboard after fundraising online with a number of songs. Photo: Bill Hillary

VIDEO: Musician’s posts raise hundreds for Slocan food bank

Bill Hillary raised the money by busking virtually

By John Boivin

Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Valley Voice

It seems even COVID-19 can’t quash the generosity of Slocan Valley residents. If anything, it gave it a boost.

A Slocan Park musician handed a cheque for nearly $1,300 to the Slocan Valley Food Cupboard of money he raised by “virtually busking” outside the Slocan Valley Co-op.

“I wasn’t surprised because I know valley people are so generous,” said Bill Hillary. “I was humbled and proud at the same time.”

Hillary, a retired contractor and hobby farmer in Slocan Park, plays music as a passion. He even has a local band, the Back Road Dogs, who performed irregularly for fun in pre-COVID days. And for the last few years, he’s busked outside the co-op at Christmastime.

“It was a stretch, as the co-op doesn’t usually allow buskers,” he says. “But this was strictly for charity, so they supported it.”

Because of public health orders, Hillary couldn’t do his usual in-person fundraiser at the gas station and convenience store. So instead, he posted his songs to the web.

“I posted the first song at the beginning of December, and the last one on Dec. 23,” he says.

The result was rather astounding. Instead of raising about $350 or so, he raised $1,285.

“It was just a joy,” he says.

The response was a surprise for the co-op as well.

“At first I believed in order for the co-op to reach its maximum matched contribution of $500, it was going to take a lot of effort on social media to encourage people to donate,” says Slocan Valley Co-op manager Chris Sapriken. “That goal was reached in less than a week after just three of Bill’s performances were posted on Facebook. It really is encouraging to see such great support from our community, especially in these difficult times.”

On Jan. 14, Hillary dropped a cheque off to the Food Cupboard in Slocan.

“I know after the Christmas season, the food bank is especially in need, so maybe this will remind folks when they have some extra change,” he says.

You can hear the songs he uploaded by visiting his or the co-op’s Facebook page. And don’t worry about it not being Christmas – the songs he’s posted aren’t particularly seasonal in nature.

“They’re all depressing, secular songs,” he chuckles. “Songs that kind of make people think about people who might not be having that good of a time at Christmas. People who don’t have all that stuff.”

They may not be Christmassy, but the spirit of the season still worked its magic.

And with the encouragement of this year, Hillary pledges to be back next season – and maybe bring some of his band members along for a live concert.