Figure skating legend Elizabeth Manley, humanitarian chef Joe Thottungal and former Redblacks player Nolan MacMillan all know what it’s like to be champions.
Now, they’re coming together with like-minded community leaders to champion others, specifically individuals facing homelessness. They’re part of an inaugural leadership group introduced Tuesday night by Manley, an award-winning mental health advocate, during Shepherds of Good Hope Foundation’s second annual Jingle for Hope virtual fundraiser.
The 11-member Table of Community Champions is working in an advisory role with the non-profit organization to identify, cultivate and support the growth of new and existing philanthropic relationships while also promoting its fundraising efforts and initiatives.
David Gourlay, director of philanthropy for the Shepherds of Good Hope Foundation, recruited the members after consulting with staff and board members.
“We chose these 11 people given their accomplishments, diverse backgrounds and passionate advocacy for our city,” said Gourlay. “I am very proud to work with each and every one of them as we launch this new infrastructure for the foundation.”
Manley, who won a silver medal in the 1988 Winter Olympic Games, is joined by 2016 Forty Under 40 recipient Katrina Barclay; marketing expert Sofia Borsten; Dave Donaldson, former dean of the School of Business at Algonquin College; 2021 Order of Ottawa recipient Sadaf Ebrahim, president of the Canada-Pakistan Association of the National Capital Region; CTV News Ottawa journalist Katie Griffin; former Redblacks offensive lineman Nolan MacMillan; entrepreneur and former Shepherds of Good Hope Foundation board member Melissa Shabinsky; former broadcaster-turned Re/Max realtor Kurt Stoodley; 2020 Order of Ottawa recipient Joe Thottungal, award-winning chef and owner of Coconut Lagoon and Thali; and 2018 Forty Under 40 recipient Michael Williams.
The group will meet quarterly starting in January.
“I’m very excited to join Table of Champions and excited to get it off the ground,” said Williams, a bilingual partner in the Ottawa office of executive search firm Odgers Berndtson. He specializes in recruiting top candidates into leadership roles in the not-for-profit, charitable and technology sectors.
Williams said he’s looking forward to learning more about the organization and its innovative programs.
"It's about seeing how we can all amplify our collective voice," he said. “It’s about spreading the word, articulating what Shepherds of Good Hope is doing and, essentially, just sharing its stories.”
Barclay, a small business owner, said she’s “really honoured” to have been asked to join. She knows the other members by name only but is keen to meet them and have the important conversations that foster good discussions and new ideas.
“It’s just a really interesting, diverse group of people, but it’s a chance to have that little bit of cross-pollination, where we can bring all our different areas and networks together.”
Barclay’s Hintonburg store, Malenka Originals, specializes in restoring old furniture through chalk paint. She also works with Gerald Pulvermacher & Associates and with Telfer’s Family Enterprise Legacy Institute. As well, she volunteers with the grassroots charity Helping with Furniture and, during the pandemic, completed her MBA at the Telfer School of Management at the University of Ottawa
MacMillan was more than happy to join the group, with the goal of raising awareness for the organization. The former CFLer, who won the Grey Cup with the Redblacks in 2016, used to collect perfectly good running shoes that his teammates would leave behind while packing up to leave town at the end of the season. He’d later visit Shepherds of Good Hope to donate the shoes along with items of clothing. While there, he would come across folks who were obviously struggling and down on their luck.
The experience of dropping donations off at the shelter, said MacMillan, "is a little shocking, a little uncomfortable. It’s easy to look the other way or to sort of see it as a big systemic issue without a simple solution. I think that it’s a community problem, and there’s got to be a community solution.
"I think any energy put in the direction of giving people hope and giving people a purpose — even if you can do it for a couple of people to change their lives and bring positive experiences — is well worth it."
“I think any energy put in the direction of giving people hope and giving people a purpose – even if you can do it for a couple of people to change their lives and bring positive experiences – is well worth it,” continued MacMillan, who’s now working as a financial adviser with RBC Dominion Securities. He joined RBC after the Redblacks’ 2020 season was cancelled because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Also a champion is Borsten, director of marketing for a string of established and new restaurants in the ByWard Market owned by her husband John Borsten. As well, she has volunteer roles with Ottawa Tourism and the ByWard Market BIA.
Shepherds of Good Hope’s shelter and soup kitchen are located near the ByWard Market.
Borsten believes Ottawa’s homeless populations would be far better off if the public gave money not to the people on the streets but to organizations such as the Shepherds of Good Hope that run programs to get such individuals back on their feet.
“I’m happy to help create awareness for what they do and how they help people,” she said.
Along with its soup kitchen and emergency shelter, Shepherds of Good Hope specializes in providing services to people with complex mental health challenges, trauma and addictions. It also operates five supportive housing residences in different parts of town. This year it opened its 42-unit Richcraft Hope Residence on Montreal Road.
“We know that crowded shelters are not the answer to anything and housing is what ends homelessness – that's how people exit homelessness,” said Deirdre Freiheit, who’s both president and CEO of Shepherds of Good Hope and of Shepherds of Good Hope Foundation. “We want to be part of that solution across the city.”
The organization is hoping to be housing more people by the end of 2022 than it has staying in its shelter.
“That’s the first time that’s happened in our organization’s history, so it’s something to be really proud of,” said Freiheit.