Making a pitch to total strangers may sound like something that happens in a conference room full of business suits — not in a packed tavern of guys with pints and pizza.
But, that’s the premise behind 100 Men Who Care, a charitable social group that gathers four times a year at The Prescott in Little Italy to listen to three charities talk briefly about the work they’re doing in the community. Afterward, each generous gent in the room gives to one or more of the charities, and gets a tax receipt in return. The suggested donation amount is $100.
Tuesday was a big night for the Ottawa chapter of 100 Men Who Care. It broke two records, both in largest attendance and most amount raised in one night. A total of 84 men made a donation, netting $10,785 in just two hours.
As well, the Ottawa chapter — created in 2014 — was able to celebrate the fact that it has exceeded $100,000 in funds raised to date.
“I’m very proud and feel a certain sense of fulfillment, knowing that a group of us started something that’s simple but so effective,” 100 Men Who Care Ottawa co-founder Brian Boucher, general manager at Euro Tile & Stone, told OBJ.social. “It’s managed to impact so many charities across our communities.
“It’s also been a really great way for people like me, who are busy with a career and family, to contribute,” added the native of Bathurst, N.B.
The evening, emceed by radio personality Kenny B from Hot 89.9 FM, featured short presentations made by representatives from Multifaith Housing Initiative, the Ottawa Community Housing Foundation’s Christo Bilukidi Athletic Bursary and the Cuts for Kids Foundation.
Besides raising money, the evening also boosts awareness for what are mostly small charities. The little-known Cuts for Kids Foundation gives free haircuts to children growing up in social housing neighbourhoods throughout Ottawa as a way of helping them look and feel good about themselves. It was founded by Ibrahim Musa, who lived in social housing with his family after they fled here as refugees from Iraq. Their dream for a better life in Canada also meant his well-educated parents had to start over, professionally and financially.
Musa spoke of the alienation he experienced as a result of looking different from the other kids at school.
“We didn’t have enough money to buy something as simple as a haircut,” said Musa. “It was my mom’s bowl cuts that got me through my primary school education. It wasn’t great but you have to show appreciation for who is taking care of you, right?
“It was this feeling that made me want to start the Cuts for Kids Foundation and to give back to a community that gave me so much.”
Then there was Richard Graham, the 17-year-old youth who is both an excellent student and football player with a bright future ahead of him. He started playing football at age eight and was introduced to the North Gloucester Giants Football Club on Donald Street. The resident of Ottawa Community Housing is being mentored by retired NFL player and OCH ambassador Christo Bilukidi, after whom the OCH Foundation has named its bursary. "What Christo has done for me has really opened doors," said Graham, a student of Hillcrest High School.
As well, the philanthropic group of men learned how Multifaith Housing Initiative has a project to build supportive housing exclusively for military veterans on the former Canadian Forces Base Rockcliffe, east of Ottawa's downtown. It will provide 40 units.
100 Men Who Care likes to keep its events casual. Most men write their first names only on name tags. The gatherings run on schedule with no room for long windedness. The events end with the men choosing the three designated charities for next time. There’s a volunteer committee chaired by Scott Robertson.
The turnout for 100 Men fluctuates from meeting to meeting, depending on availability and interest. “Anyone who writes a cheque is considered a Man Who Cares,” joked Robertson, president at Tasman Financial Services.
Ron Smith, vice-president of business development for RBC, learned about the group through his friend and long-time 100 Men supporter Patrick McGarry, funeral director and COO at Hulse, Playfair & McGarry.
Smith quickly came to realize 100 Men Who Care had less to do with business networking and more to do with philanthropy and camaraderie. “If some business comes out of it, great, but nobody’s here handing out their card and saying ‘Call me’,” said Smith, who is also on the committee.
Often, the presentations involve members of the public sharing first-hand accounts of how a charity has helped them. Such stories have been known to move male audience members to tears. “I used to think it was a sign of weakness but now I see it as a sign of strength,” said Ottawa policy and management consultant Phil Nicholson.