Cornerstone's Purple Tie Gala to go virtual with jam-packed evening of talent, inspiration and fun

Proceeds will help Ottawa charity provide emergency shelter and supportive housing to homeless women
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Presenting sponsors Joanne Livingston and Alan MacDonald, both seated, from Livingston MacDonald Wealth Management of RBC Dominion Securities and, from left, Cornerstone Housing for Women interim executive director Martine Dore, Purple Tie Gala co-emcee Joseph Cull, Madeleine Cormier (Chapeaux de Madeleine) and Frank Sukhoo (Sukhoo Sukhoo Khooture) recently gathered at Sukhoo Sukhoo Khooture at 146 Dalhousie St. to promote next month's virtual Purple Tie Gala in support of Cornerstone. Photo by Caroline Phillips
Editor's Note

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Who wasn’t totally sick and tired of their home by the time the COVID-19 lockdown measures were lifted, having been stuck inside day after day, week after week?

And yet, weren't we just so lucky to have a roof over our head?

It’s estimated some 1,000 women become homeless in Ottawa each year. More than half ​– 604, to be exact ​– turned to Cornerstone Housing for Women for support last year. Not only does the charity provide emergency shelter as well as safe, supportive and permanent housing for a diverse group of women, but it also helps its clients rebuild their lives.

Cornerstone made a bold splash on the fundraising scene in 2019 with its inaugural Purple Tie Gala, presented by Livingston MacDonald Wealth Management of RBC Dominion Securities.

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Cornerstone Housing for Women launched its popular Purple Tie Gala last September at the Ottawa Art Gallery. Photo by Caroline Phillips

Preparations were under way to grow the event even further when COVID-19 caused a global health pandemic that has forced the non-profit sector to cancel, reschedule or go virtual with its fundraisers.

The Purple Tie Gala has chosen the latter approach. Its event manager, Jake Naylor, a partner with Ottawa marketing and special events agency Whiskeyjack Media, is pulling together a jam-packed, one-hour show that will go public on Saturday, Sept. 12. The event will be broadcast on Rogers TV and streamed on Cornerstone's Facebook page beginning at 7 p.m.

“We felt it was important to keep it alive, in whatever capacity,” Naylor told OBJ.social. “Last year, it was a hit, it was a sellout. To do nothing for its second year would have been a missed opportunity in a big way.”

There will be musical performances by Juno Award-winning Ottawa blues band MonkeyJunk and Jessica Pearson & the East Wind. Audiences will take in a fashion show presented by designer Frank Sukhoo's newly rebranded Sukhoo Sukhoo Khooture and Madeleine Cormier's Chapeaux de Madeleine, located at Sukhoo's boutique on Dalhousie Street. Last year, their fashion display elevated the Purple Tie Gala to glamorous heights.

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From left, Madeleine Cormier (Chapeau de Madeleine) with Frank Sukhoo (Sukhoo Sukhoo Khooture) and Jessie-Lee Wallace, senior resource development manager for Cornerstone Housing for Women, at the inaugural Purple Tie Gala held last September. Photo by Caroline Phillips
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Sukhoo Sukhoo Khooture ​– a longtime supporter of Cornerstone Housing for Women ​– has organized benefit fashion shows and installations over the years. Photo by Caroline Phillips

Beloved community builder Joseph Cull, famous for performing as Ottawa's formidable version of Dame Edna, will be reprising his role of co-emcee, joined this year by peppy radio personality Sandra Plagakis from KiSS 105.3. Cull is also on the organizing committee, along with volunteers Delan De Silva, Heidi Rodger, Andrea Tomkins and Cornerstone's Jessie-Lee Wallace.

Viewers are invited to get into the spirit of the gala by dressing up and donning purple attire. If you don't want to watch the show all by your lonesome, consider having other members of your COVID-19 social “bubble” join you.

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Sandra Plagakis, in costume for a themed charity gala held in 2014, will help to emcee this year's virtual Purple Tie Gala in support of Cornerstone Housing for Women. Photo by Caroline Phillips

The public is encouraged to help Cornerstone in one of two ways: by purchasing a $95 ticket and/or making an online donation

“People still want to support causes that they believe in, even more so in some cases because of COVID-19,” said Naylor.

Not to mention that Cornerstone is under pressure to raise money to keep its programs and services up and running. It needs $650,000 to meet its budget this year. The emergency shelter alone requires $300,000.

"Last year's Purple Tie Gala was such a success, and having to change to a virtual event is a real challenge for us," explained Cornerstone’s interim executive director, Martine Dore. “It’s really crucial for us that we do the event and that it’s successful and that we do raise money from it."

Ticket holders have chances to win door prizes and contests. As well, they will each be hand-delivered a gourmet hospitality basket full of goodies ​– including beer from sponsor Flora Hall Brewing. As of last week, organizers were almost at the halfway point of reaching their goal to sell 200 tickets.

Cornerstone’s sponsors are helping to defray costs of presenting the virtual gala. Their financial support ensures that all the money raised from ticket sales goes directly to the cause. “Not only is it heartening to see sponsors step up and support us, it’s crucial,” said Dore.

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Presenting sponsors Joanne Livingston and Alan MacDonald seen with Lucy van Oldenbarneveld, rear left, and Joseph Cull, dressed as Dame Edna, at the inaugural Purple Tie Gala held in 2019. Photo by Caroline Phillips

Returning presenting sponsors Joanne Livingston and Alan MacDonald, vice-presidents and portfolio managers with RBC Wealth Management, are hoping the new format reaches audiences and raises awareness for the cause.

They got involved with Cornerstone when the organization was in the home stretch of its capital campaign to build its latest supportive housing project. It opened on Princeton Avenue in Westboro almost two years ago. The pair was recruited by Ottawa lawyer and volunteer fundraiser Paul LaBarge.

“The idea of having a spot like Princeton, where people might have an opportunity to move on from homelessness, really spoke to me,” said Livingston, who formerly sat on the board of Ottawa Women's Place.

Interestingly, MacDonald's motivation for supporting Cornerstone is quite personal. A member of his extended family previously experienced a close brush with homelessness.

“That really resonated with me,” said MacDonald, who has been giving back and helping vulnerable members of our community for years.

Other sponsors of the Purple Tie Gala include law firm Emond Harnden, Rogers TV, Apt613, award-winning volunteer fundraiser Brian Scott and his wife, Monica Sapiano, and the Westboro Village BIA.

​– caroline@obj.ca