It was like a little taste of Taste for Hope at a reception hosted Thursday at Audi City Ottawa to thank sponsors of Shepherds of Good Hope's upcoming signature fundraiser, taking place Thursday, June 16th.
The ninth edition of the yummy event will return to the Horticulture Building at Lansdowne, located steps away from the car dealership that doesn't look like a car dealership (except for the fully electric 2022 grey Audi car for sale by the front window). The retail store served as a chic venue for mingling over drinks, with canapés and charcuterie provided by Sheila Whyte and Michael Moffatt from Thyme & Again Creative Catering.
Projected on a large screen were visual reminders of the important work Shepherds of Good Hope does in the community to provide homeless services to vulnerable men and women, and of the many local businesses putting their support behind this year's fundraiser.
Liza Mrak, executive vice president and co-owner of Mark Motors Group, told the room how she and Ottawa businessman and philanthropist Gary Zed “couldn’t be more proud” to be co-chairing this year’s Taste for Hope, presented by Ideal Roofing. They decided the Audi store had the community feel they were looking for to host a pre-event reception for sponsors. “People are always welcome to come in, hang out, have a coffee and, obviously, buy a car,” said Mrak, always the savvy businesswoman.
Organizers are capping the number of Taste for Hope attendees at 400 people, with tickets selling at $200 each. “We’re not quite sold out but we’re certainly getting there each and every day,” David Gourlay, vice president of Shepherds of Good Hope Foundation, told OBJ.social.
“We really want to focus Taste for Hope on our guests and their experience, and to really have them enjoy everything that this community has to offer,” he added.
The fact that Carole Saad, owner of Chic+Swell Event Designers and LouLou Lounge Furniture Rental, was at the reception is a sure sign that it's going to be a lovely, lovely event. As a sponsor, Saad is taking care of the decor and logistics.
As well, Thyme & Again will be serving food that night, joined by such chefs as Joe Thottungal (Coconut Lagoon, Thali), David Godsoe (e18hteen, Social, The Clarendon), Yannick LaSalle (Les Fougères), Donna Chevrier (Ola Cocina), Ben Baird (Pelican Seafood Market & Grill), Raghav Chaudhary (Aiana), Harriet Clunie (Das Lokal), Stephen La Salle (The Metcalfe Hotel) and many more. “There will be a lot of familiar faces,” said Robin Duetta, who produces the culinary side of things each year.
The participating chefs are the heart and soul of Taste for Hope. They make it all happen by providing their time, skills and food. The pandemic was hard on them, said Duetta, but many of the restaurants have long-standing relationships with Shepherds.
“You know how philanthropic they are. They’ve been incredible. They’ve been, like, ‘Of course, yes, we’re looking forward to it’. It’s their night to be social. They love getting together to do some good.”
One of the food stations will be run by volunteers from the philanthropic Indo-Canadian group SEVA. It raises funds for Shepherds and frequently comes into its community soup kitchen to cook meals for service users.
Attendees of last night’s reception included well-known entrepreneur Bruce Linton and Heather Linton; lawyer Jacques Emond, founding partner of Emond Harnden LLP; Peter Nicholson, president of The Foundation WCPD; and business partners Michael Scrivens, Peter Scrivens and Claude Miron from Scrivens Insurance and Investment Solutions. From the ‘hood was Jeff Hill, vice president and senior investment advisor with BMO Private Wealth, which has an office at Lansdowne. He attended with his wife, Leigh Harris, a partner at KPMG.
Mrak’s brother Michael Mrak, dealer principal of the family-owned Mark Motors Group, was there that night, as were Gowling WLG partner John Peters, who's been involved with Shepherds since the early '90s, SGH Foundation board chair Ryan Kilger, a lawyer with Vincent Dagenais Gibson, and board vice chair Mark Roundell with his daughter Jenna Roundell, who has taken over from her recently retired father as portfolio manager and wealth advisor at Roundell Wealth Management of RBC Dominion Securities. Also seen were SGH Foundation board treasurer Kaveh Rikhtegar and SGH board member Steve Ball, president of the Ottawa Gatineau Hotel Association.
From Shepherds’ new champions table of community ambassadors were former Redblacks player Nolan MacMillan, an investment advisor with RBC Wealth Management, and Sofia Santiso Borsten, director of marketing for a group of restaurants that includes Starling, Zak’s Diner, Metropolitain Brasserie, The Grand Pizzeria, and others.
Ideal Roofing has a long tradition of supporting Shepherds, most notably with its donation of Christmas turkeys each year to the organization. “We definitely want to do our part to contribute, to give back to our community,” co-owner Philippe Laplante told OBJ.social.
New to this year’s Taste for Hope will be live music — something Shepherds of Good Hope has really come to appreciate. It collaborated with numerous local artists during the pandemic as a creative way to raise money and inspire hope.
Organizers have also been working hard at coming up with experiential auction items that offer highest bidders the opportunity to host themed backyard parties that come with a chef and live music.
Taste for Hope is expected to raise its highest amount this year, through ticket sales, auction proceeds and a huge spike in sponsorship, said Gourlay. “I think it’s safe to say it will be an historic number.”
Mrak and Zed, who got married last year, have got the whole co-chairing thing down to a perfection from their years of successfully leading BGC Ottawa’s annual breakfast fundraiser.
Zed said they wanted to get more involved with Shepherds of Good Hope after attending its Grinch Dinner at Thali restaurant in December 2019. He happened to sit next to Deirdre Freiheit, president and CEO of both Shepherds of Good Hope and of its charitable foundation. She chatted with him about the work the organization is doing to get vulnerable people back on their feet by building more permanent, supportive housing.
“We felt that homelessness, the experience of homelessness is a big issue in the city and we said, ‘Let’s put our energy and focus and attention toward it’,” explained Zed, founder and CEO of a new ESG company called Canada’s Forest Trust to reverse the damage of deforestation and climate change.
Shepherds of Good Hope has set a goal to house more people than the current 230 people living in its shelter. “We can’t do it without you,” Freiheit told the crowd at last night’s event. “We can’t do it without our volunteers and our community.”
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