Ottawa may be quickly moving into the COVID-19 red zone but at least there appeared to be greener days ahead during the St. Patrick’s Day Kitchen Party held Wednesday night in support of the St. Patrick’s Home of Ottawa.
Organizers gathered all the best ingredients for throwing a great party – food and drink, music, socializing and dancing – for people to enjoy in the safety of their own homes. The sold-out event, powered by Brella, allowed participants to virtually network with one another, giving business sponsors an opportunity to connect with guests.
Volunteers were busy Wednesday afternoon delivering dinner packages to participants’ homes. Each one was full of classic Irish comfort food prepared by catering company and food shop Thyme & Again and sponsored by TD Bank.
As of Thursday afternoon, the kitchen party, or ceilidh, had raised roughly $60,000, with more donations still coming in. St. Patrick's Home is a 288-bed, long-term care home located on Riverside Drive. It provides assisted living and respite care. It’s also one of the oldest homes for the aged in Ontario.
Chartered professional accounting firm Baker Tilly Ottawa LLP was back again as the presenting sponsor of the Kitchen Party. One of its tax partners, Rosa Iuliano, is chair of the board at the St. Patrick’s Home of Ottawa Foundation and is a former BYA Businesswoman of the Year Award winner.
The community’s support of St. Pat’s during these challenging times, she said, has helped to improve the safety and well being of St. Patrick Home residents, staff and visitors. Iuliano also announced that all donations were being matched, up to $10,000, by sponsor Sodexo Canada, a food services and facilities management company.
Money raised by the foundation supports such programs as music therapy, social engagement activities, essential medical equipment as well as spiritual and pastoral care at St. Pat's.
Còig, an award-winning Celtic band from Cape Breton, was back to play some lively jigs, albeit in much different surroundings than last year, when they performed on stage in front of hundreds inside the Horticulture Building at Lansdowne Park. The musicians said they were just grateful to be part of this year’s fundraiser again, after watching so many concert series, festivals and events get cancelled due to COVID-19.
“We’re not in that great big giant room this year but we’re all together in some way,” said musician Darren McMullen, who thanked Meg Friedman, executive director of St. Patrick's Home of Ottawa Foundation, for her efforts in making their involvement happen. "We'll do our best to have a little party with you guys."
Supporters chowed down on some “almost traditional” Irish stew, served with a side of piccalilli, or pickle relish. The meal came with soda bread – a staple food in Ireland during times of famine – and a wee bit of Irish cheddar, to be topped with honey. For dessert, there was a strawberry Bakewell tart, with custard sauce and toasted almonds. The shamrock cookie, baked by Cookies n’ Stuff by Chelsey, was a bonus.
There was no reason to go thirsty with the choice of a bottle of Cave Spring wine or a trio of cider, ale and Guinness.
The evening was hosted by the upbeat (and possibly ageless) Michael O’Byrne, retired news anchor with CTV Ottawa and a long-time supporter of St. Patrick’s Home of Ottawa. He emceed from his own kitchen, where hanging on the wall behind him was his blue ribbon medal for "Best Grampa."
Award-winning chef Michael Moffatt, who’s also a business partner at Thyme & Again, gave a quick cooking lesson on how to prepare the meal served that night.
“The trick with stew and the nature of classic Irish stew is that everything needs its time,” said Moffatt, while working his culinary magic in the Thyme & Again Kitchen & Food Shop located on Carling Avenue. “You can’t rush these things, you can’t rush a stew. It takes a few hours; it’s an all-day thing. The benefit is, it really makes your house smell good.”
Moffatt encouraged viewers to put their own spin on the recipes.
“That’s the whole idea behind cooking,” he said. “Be creative, have fun with it.”
The Ottawa Irish Dance Company was also on hand to teach viewers some of the basics of Irish dancing.
Audiences learned via video how St. Patrick’s Home has used compassion, creativity and dedication to cope with the COVID-19 crisis. On March 14, 2020, the Ministry of Long-Term Care ordered it and other long-term care homes to close their doors to all visitors and volunteers, launching a lockdown that dragged on for months. Its leadership team met each morning to review the guidelines, discuss the challenges they faced, and ensure infection prevention and control measures were in place. The home worked to create outreach programs that kept its residents engaged and feeling connected with their family members.
Janet Morris, president and CEO of St. Patrick's Home, said the crisis has only made them stronger. As the province-wide vaccination process continues, designated caregivers are now eligible for vaccination at the long-term care home.
“This year has probably been the most challenging in my whole career but I can say the success that we’ve had at St. Pat’s has been because of the great staff, the opportunities to think outside the box, and the commitment that everyone has to ... making things as normal as we can," Morris said in the video.
Other sponsors of the Kitchen Party were Sun Life Financial and Coughlin & Associates. Also supporting the event were BMO Wealth Management/BMO Nesbitt Burns, Kelly Santini LLP, Trevor and Patti Johnson, Welch LLP and Yorkville Asset Management.