Harmony House turns annual fundraising gala into Foodie 'Friendraiser' to support local businesses

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Harmony House, Ottawa's only second-stage domestic violence shelter, has turned their annual Foodie Fundraiser into a 'Friendraiser' to support local businesses that have been supporting their event for the last 14 years.
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Harmony House has been on the receiving end of so much generosity and goodwill over the years that it’s decided to bring others along for the ride as it organizes its first-ever Foodie Friendraiser.

Not only will its tasty and thirst-quenching new initiative raise some money for the second-stage domestic violence shelter – the only one of its kind in Eastern Ontario – but it will also provide relief to small, local businesses that have taken a pandemic pounding. 

“It was important for us to give back somehow, not only to support the women and children in our community, but also our local businesses,” explained Sandra Pedersen, fundraising and brand development manager for Harmony House. “All of our staff and board members are all so excited to be doing this because it feels so good for us to be the one giving back.”

The shelter is focusing on the local food services and beverage industry, which has been the backbone of its signature Red and White foodie fundraiser. Proceeds of the annual event, created in 2007, help women and their children fleeing domestic violence. 

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Sandra Pedersen, fundraising and brand development manager for Harmony House, welcomes guests to the 14th annual Harmony House Foodie Fundraiser held February 2020 at the Horticultural Building at Lansdowne. Photo by Caroline Phillips

Organizers are assembling packages of locally created food and drinks that the public can order for a friend, a family member or for their own enjoyment. Each food kit is selling at below-normal retail price thanks to the $5,000 in sponsorship money kicked in by dental specialist clinic GumDocs.

"All the costs are more than covered," said Pedersen. "It's an 'everybody, helping everybody' type of situation."

The Foodie Friendraiser sold out as of Sunday night, a couple of days ahead of the deadline to get orders in. Pickup or delivery is taking place Feb. 25 or Feb. 26.

Included in the packages will be an assortment of chocolatey bites from Restaurant E18hteen. Its executive chef, David Godsoe, has been a headlining chef at the Red and White benefit for the past several years.

"It’s one my favourite events," said Godsoe, who's happy to see that something is happening in its place. “We need to have a little bit of normality again.”

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Restaurant E18hteen executive chef David Godsoe (centre) gives a live cooking demonstration with Riviera executive chef Jordan Holley (right), while joined by emcee Rick Chase (left) at the 14th annual Harmony House Foodie Fundraiser held February 2020 at the Horticultural Building at Lansdowne. Photo by Caroline Phillips

It's not exactly business as usual at Restaurant E18hteen but the fine-dining establishment at 18 York St. and its sister restaurants, Social, Clarendon and Sidedoor, are preparing to welcome customers back to their premises, beginning March 3, under COVID-19 restrictions. The restaurants are all located in the ByWard Market. Judging by the high volume of calls and messages that they're getting from customers, the public is eager to dine out again, Godsoe said.

Speaking of calls, there's been a nationwide spike in reports of domestic violence during the COVID-19 pandemic. Harmony House has received more donations than usual, as well as an increase in funding from all levels of government.

"Not only have our donors and the community really stepped up to support us, in terms of funding, but we have successfully applied for many new grants given out this year to help shelters in the homelessness and domestic violence sector pivot in how they deliver their services," said Pedersen.

Harmony House has been able to open a safe, secure and accessible outreach office at 343 Preston St. It’s a place where women can better learn what resources are available to them. The new downtown office was made possible through the support of Sharron Kavanagh, whom Pedersen calls “our Fairy Godmother.”

The new office is holding its official launch on Monday, March 8th, which is International Women's Day 2021.

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Sharron Kavanagh at the International Women's Day breakfast reception held at Ottawa City Hall on Friday, March 6, 2020. Photo by Caroline Phillips

Harmony House is a 16-unit facility that provides transitional housing to abused women and their children, once they’ve left an emergency shelter but have no affordable housing options. The shelter has a waiting list of 30 women at any given time.

Some of the changes Harmony House has made during the pandemic include hiring a full-time childcare provider at no cost to clients, as well a teacher to help the kids living at the shelter with their virtual learning, all while keeping the shelter's social bubble small. 

— caroline@obj.ca