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Habitat for Humanity Greater Ottawa gets ready to raise the roof with Steel Toes & Stilettos Gala

Nov. 3 event will raise funds for homebuilding initiative in Orléans

Gaye and Gord Erskine
Gaye and Gord Erskine

It’s known as Ottawa’s construction industry night on the town.

The 2018 edition of the annual Steel Toes & Stilettos Gala – now in its 13th year – will feature aerial acrobatic performances, live music, a chance to win a guitar signed by Prince and the opportunity to help local families in need achieve the dream of affordable homeownership.

“People actually dance and stay late and have a good time,” says Shawna Blanchard, Habitat for Humanity Greater Ottawa’s (Habitat GO) Director of Development. “It’s not just a ‘dine and dash’ – it’s actually considered one of the more entertaining events of the gala season.”

Habitat GO helps families gain strength, stability and self-reliance through affordable homeownership. Funds raised at the annual Steel Toes & Stilettos Gala go towards the charity’s local build projects.

“That’s really important to us as we continue to build capacity. Over the last few years, we’ve moved from building two to three homes per year to eight homes in 2019 alone,” says Blanchard.

The second phase of their east-end development, named Leacross Landing, is currently underway. The first four families of 16 moved into the community in June.

Glamour & fun

In addition to supporting a great cause, the Steel Toes & Stilettos gala promises an evening like no other.

“We’re really proud of the event because we’ve been told, year after year, that it’s one of the most fun events in the city,” says Blanchard.

“We’re really proud of the event because we’ve been told, year after year, that it’s one of the most fun events in the city.”

This year’s gala will start with a cocktail reception featuring a performance from Cirque Carpe Diem, an aerial silk troupe from Montreal. A three-course meal will follow, where live musical acts will be featured along with another performance from Cirque Carpe Diem.

Attendees can also partake in the live and silent auctions. Among the prizes available this year are a purple guitar signed by famed musician, Prince, as well as a Masters Tournament flag signed by golf legends Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player.

And for those who want to bring the spirit of giving back to work with them, Habitat GO is also auctioning off several Habitat Build Days, where teams spend the day on the Habitat site building homes. For many local firms, Habitat Build Days offer a corporate team building exercise unlike any other.

A great cause

Though the evening is always packed with wonderful entertainment, food and activities, for many attendees, supporting Habitat GO is the main draw.

“Participation in Habitat GO’s programs brings out many great qualities in people,” says Laurin General Contractor president Dennis Laurin. His company has been one of the presenting
sponsors for the Steel Toes & Stilettos gala for the past four years. Other sponsors of this year’s gala include EQ Homes, BMO, Trinity Development Group, Regional Group and CTV.

Habitat GO homeowners are selected based on need, and are asked to contribute 500 hours (350 for single parents) of sweat equity back into the organization. This can be spent working on a build site or volunteering in one of the charity’s three ReStore locations. They are also granted a geared-to-income, interest-free mortgage.

For Laurin, the best part of Habitat GO’s work is the “inherent family wealth” created with helping a family buy their own home.

“It’s profound how this program changes a family’s life,” he says. “Particularly for children, who get their own bedroom and a space to entertain friends, watch a movie or play video games in comfort, cleanliness and security.”

Each year, one Habitat GO family is invited to attend the gala and give attendees personal insights into how their new home has changed their lives.

“It’s fundraising at its best, but it’s also awareness and education for participants in the room to understand where their funds are going and how it impacts the families,” says Blanchard.

To reserve your seat at Habitat GO’s 2018 Steel Toes & Stilettos gala, head to