Nothing says home like a bed, especially for anyone who’s spent one too many nights sleeping on the streets or stuck in the cramped confines of a shelter.
Wednesday night, the Ottawa community came together to address the cause of chronic homelessness by raising enough money to purchase 80 new beds for affordable housing facilities operated by the Shepherds of Good Hope.
It was part of the fund-a-need appeal held during the live auction portion of the Shepherds’ 10th anniversary of Taste for Hope. Ideal Roofing was the returning presenting sponsor while executive search firm Boyden Canada was back to sponsor the VIP reception.
Burovision is tripling the size of its downtown office, taking over the entire second floor of 300 Sparks St. as an ode to ‘people-first’ offices.
The sold-out event saw a crowd of 430 ticket-holders fill the Horticulture Building at Lansdowne Park for a night of amazing food and drinks enjoyed with friends, colleagues, clients and new acquaintances. Professional event planner Carole Saad, owner of Chic+Swell Event Designers and LouLou Lounge Furniture Rental, did a phenomenal job. The marquee lights added some fun flair while the giant white helium balloons that were suspended over the 16 food stations not only looked really cool but also helped to identify the respective restaurants.
Attendees included Ottawa Mayor Mark Sutcliffe, Ottawa-Vanier MP and Treasury Board President Mona Fortier, and Senators Community Foundation president Jacqueline Belsito, who told OBJ.social how “thrilled” the hockey club is over this week’s announcement that Toronto businessman Michael Andlauer is to become the new owner of the Ottawa Senators.
The biggest challenge of the evening was getting the chatty crowd, which numbered around 500 people in total, to hush up for the brief speeches, live auction and the fund-a-need appeal. Liza Mrak, executive vice-president of second-generation family-owned Mark Motors Group, was back to co-chair the fundraiser with her husband, Gary Zed, CEO of Canada’s Forest Trust.
They were joined on stage by Deirdre Freiheit, who’s stepping away in a couple of weeks as president and CEO of Shepherds of Good Hope and of its foundation. She’s been leading the homeless services organization and supportive housing provider in Ottawa since 2014.
“Deirdre has spent nine years fighting for homelessness, I think we can give her five minutes; I don’t think that’s an unreasonable request,” said Zed as he finally got most everyone to listen.
Shepherds has reached a new milestone. It now houses almost 300 people in supportive housing, which is more folks than it has living in its shelters.
“It’s because of you,” Freiheit told the room. “We made a concerted effort to invest in supportive housing a number of years ago. We know that the answer to ending chronic homelessness is to provide somebody with a home.”
Shepherds recently opened its 57-bed supportive facility at 1095 Merivale Rd. and plans to open its new 48-unit facility at 216 Murray St. in 2024.
Taste for Hope is about bringing community together, said Freiheit, “to help us do this work. We can’t thank you enough for helping us to tip that scale.”
Of course, Taste for Hope wouldn’t be possible without the participating chefs, Freiheit emphasized.
“Please everyone, thank the chefs. They come every single year. They give their time and their staff, and they donate the food so that you can enjoy a lovely night.”
David Gourlay, vice-president at the Shepherds of Good Hope Foundation, led everyone in a toast to Freiheit. Said Gourlay: “On behalf of the team, the staff at Shepherds of Good Hope, our foundation staff, our volunteers, all of our donors, all of our supporters, all of you in this room and, of course, those we support who experience homelessness, thank you for your leadership, thank you for your care, thank you for your empathy and warmth.”
During the live auction, Ryan E. Watson from Raising the Bid brought his energy and enthusiasm to the event to sell off a dining experience at Devinder Chaudhary‘s Aiāna; an Ottawa Jazz Festival package with dinner at North & Navy and accommodations at Lord Elgin Hotel; an evening with Chef Joe Thottungal from Coconut Lagoon/Thali restaurants; a big night at the SpeakEasy Tapas Lounge; a spa package at S.H.E. Ottawa; and an evening of live music at Lowertown Brewery.
Zed encouraged attendees to participate in the fund-a-need campaign, which was also handled by Watson, to buy new beds for Shepherds’ supportive housing facilities.
“Everyone in this room is very blessed,” said Zed, who ended up pledging $10,000. “We know that there’s the capacity in this room to make a difference. We could all spare a few dollars to help those in despair, to help those turn a corner in their lives.”
Shepherds has announced that Gourlay is being promoted to CEO of Shepherds of Good Hope Foundation while Stephen Bartolo is being elevated from senior vice-president at Shepherds of Good Hope to its CEO.
Bartolo has been with the organization for more than 21 years, initially starting out as a volunteer.
“He’s done every role in the organization, from front-line worker to management,” said Freiheit. “He knows the organization inside and out. It couldn’t be in better hands.”
Bartolo told OBJ.social that the departure of Freiheit, whom he considers his mentor, will be “bittersweet”.
“Deirdre and I always joke that in the last 10 years we were peanut butter and jam because we complement each other so well. I’m going to miss her a lot, but she’s set us up for success.”
That night, Shawn Hamilton, who joined Ottawa commercial real estate brokerage Proveras Commercial Realty as a partner this week, presented a ceremonial cheque, along with Ottawa Board of Trade board member Erin Benjamin and OBoT’s senior director of communications and public affairs, Stéphanie Montreuil, to Gourlay for more than $18,000. The funds were raised last month during the Ottawa is Open for Business event hosted by Canderel at Constitution Square.
Later in the evening, Jeff O’Reilly from Saunders Cider was seen bringing over drinks to the folks at Chelsea-based restaurant Les Fougerès and, in return, taking some food back to his team. “Sharing means caring,” O’Reilly quipped.