Ottawa Mission promotes signature Blue Door Gala before sponsorship, ticket sales close

Organizers hold kick-off reception at Thyme & Again for upcoming fall gala at Infinity Convention Centre
blue door
From left, Michael Moffatt, Sheila Whyte and Lawrence Greenspon are back to co-chair the popular Blue Door Gala, happening Thursday, November 14th, in support of The Ottawa Mission Foundation. Photo by Caroline Phillips
Editor's Note

OBJ.Social is supported by the generous patronage of Mark MotorsBruyère FoundationMarilyn Wilson Dream Properties and Sparks Dental. Read their stories here.

 

Everyone loves a good comeback story, right? The Blue Door Gala has so many to offer that it has easily become one of the most inspiring and feel-good fundraisers in Ottawa.

The benefit dinner raises funds for The Ottawa Mission, which provides food, shelter and vital services to our city’s homeless and hungry. The evening also showcases the charitable organization's successful food services training program, which gives unemployed men and women the skills to find jobs in commercial kitchens.

The third annual Blue Door Gala returns to the Infinity Convention Centre this Thursday, November 14th.

The $175-a-ticket fundraiser, presented by Caivan Communities, is once again being chaired by a tireless trio of business leaders: Thyme & Again Creative Catering owner Sheila Whyte and her business partner, chef Michael Moffatt, along with high-profile criminal defence and civil litigation lawyer Lawrence Greenspon from Greenspon Hill Granger.

They gathered Monday night, along with corporate sponsors and community supporters, at the Thyme & Again Kitchen + Food Shop on Carling Avenue to kick off this year’s Blue Door Gala, which is looking to be another heart and soul-filled fun night.

“It’s the human story that we will celebrate,” Sean Wong, executive director of The Ottawa Mission Foundation, said in his remarks. “It’s a story of people who have had different lives than you and I have had, perhaps, and they’ve journeyed back. We’re going to celebrate that.”

The gala is named after the conspicuous set of blue-coloured front doors that individuals pass through on their way to finding shelter and a hot meal at The Ottawa Mission, located at 35 Waller St.

Organizers propped up a traditional blue door for the launch. With its missing glass panel, it was perfect for photo-ops.

blue door
From left, Sean Wong, executive director of The Ottawa Mission Foundation with Jonathan Wiseman, director of sales and marketing for Caivan Communities, and Tony Bennett, incoming board chair of the foundation and retired president and CEO of BMO Private Investment Counsel, at the kick off for the upcoming Blue Door Gala. Photo by Caroline Phillips

It’s been nearly 15 years since The Mission launched its food services training program. The five-month program — which has a 95-percent success rate — gives students hands-on experience in the kitchen, plus theory, before finding them non-paid, 40-hour placements. Thyme & Again has hired many graduates over the years.

“I’m the luckiest man in the world,” chef Ric Watson, director of food services at The Ottawa Mission, told the room. “I get to watch people’s lives change.”

Watson does more than watch; he’s been a tremendous mentor and booster to so many of his students over the years. Recent graduate Mohamed Abdi-Aziz, 24, expressed his sincere gratitude to Watson for “believing in me and giving me the opportunity to go for my dreams and do better in life.

“I couldn’t be happier,” said Abdi-Aziz, who’s now in the culinary management program at Algonquin College. “I never thought I’d be in college ever in my life. I’m so proud of myself.”

blue door
Guests applaud Mohamed Abdi-Aziz as the young college student shares his story of how The Ottawa Mission's food services training program helped to turn his life around. Photo by Caroline Phillips
blue  door
From left, Peter Tilley, executive director of The Ottawa Mission, with its head of food services, chef Ric Watson, and Sean Wong, executive director of The Ottawa Mission Foundation, at Thyme & Again Kitchen + Food Shop on Monday, Sept. 9, 2019, for the kick off to the upcoming Blue Door Gala. Photo by Caroline Phillips

Moffatt, who’s been working in food services for more than 20 years, had this observation to share about the industry: it's full of individuals who are looking for a new start and a second chance. 

“It’s an absolute honour to be part of this," he added before sharing with guests the menu for this year’s gala (while Greenspon used his charisma to get the whole room oohing and aahing). 

blue door
Gala co-chairs and business partners Sheila Whyte and Michael Moffatt at the Thyme & Again Kitchen + Food Shop on Monday night for kick off to the Blue Door Gala taking place at the Infinity Convention Centre on Thursday, November 14th, 2019, in support of The Ottawa Mission Foundation. Photo by Caroline Phillips
blue door
Lawyer Lawrence Greenspon, co-chair of the Blue Door Gala, will be back as charity auctioneer for this year's event, taking place Thursday, November 14th, 2019. Photo by Caroline Phillips

Guests will dine on house-smoked salmon with arugula, capers and edible flowers on crostini; caramelized butternut squash bisque with pepita and wild rice granola and sage oil; spinach and asiago-stuffed chicken with rosemary-scented veloute, roasted red potatoes, heirloom carrots, bell peppers and patty pan squash; and a deconstructed fall cheesecake with vanilla cheesecake balls with cinnamon-poached apples, graham cracker crumble and frozen blueberries and mint.

Worth noting: the food services training students will be at the gala helping to prepare and serve the dinner as part of their final exam. One of the highlights last year was watching them individually walk across the stage to receive their diplomas on stage from Watson.

Monday's reception at Thyme & Again was catered by The Ottawa Mission, involving present and past students.

blue door
Michael Moffatt with Taryn Manias, director of business development and public relations for Rebel.com, at Thyme & Again Kitchen + Food Shop for the event launch of the upcoming Blue Door Gala. Photo by Caroline Phillips

Attendees of the event launch included Warren Creates, head of the immigration law group at Perley-Robertson, Hill & McDougall. He attended last year as a guest of David Cork, senior wealth advisor with ScotiaMcLeod. He enjoyed the evening so much that he and his wife are returning this year, and hosting a dinner table of their own.

“I listened to the testimonials last year and it was so beautiful to hear the graduates talk about how the program transformed their lives, and how people believed in them,” Creates told OBJ.social.

There were new faces in the crowd, too, including Peter Hagen from Soloway Wright LLP and Melissa Shabinsky, who's on the foundation board for The Shepherds of Good Hope — another major charity that helps the homeless in Ottawa.

blue door
Jenn Graves, event officer at The Ottawa Mission Foundation, with Warren Creates at Thyme & Again Kitchen + Food Shop for the kick off to the upcoming Blue Door Gala. Photo by Caroline Phillips
blue door
Soloway Wright LLP partner Peter Hagen with his wife, Mary Thomson, at Thyme & Again Kitchen + Food Shop for the event launch of the upcoming Blue Door Gala. Photo by Caroline Phillips
blue door
From left, Lawrence Greenspon with his wife, Angela Lariviere, vice president of brand projects at HEXO Corp., with sponsor David Feldberg, managing director of Desjardins Financial Security. Photo by Caroline Phillips

Michael Scrivens, a partner at the family-owned Scrivens Insurance and Investment Solutions, is back as a corporate sponsor. “We’ve been connected with The Mission for a long time,” said Scrivens, who serves meals to the homeless with his wife, Heather Bradley, and their grown boys, at least once or twice a year.

Richard MacNeill, president of OTUS Group, also volunteers at The Mission during the big feast holidays. He brings out his employees to build awareness and team spirit. This Thanksgiving, Scotiabank vice-president Frank Bilodeau and his wife, Steffanie, market lead at Scotiatrust Eastern Ontario, will be helping to serve turkey dinners at The Mission with their adult children.

The Ottawa Mission, which serves more than 1,300 meals a day and provides beds to an average of 186 homeless people each night, also gives out clothing and provides employment and educational support, housing assistance, mental health services, addiction and trauma services, spiritual care and health services for primary, dental and palliative care.

blue door
From left, Peter Tilley with steering committee member Heather Bradley and Michael Scrivens, from Scrivens Insurance and Investment Solutions, at Thyme & Again Kitchen + Food Shop for the kick off to the upcoming Blue Door Gala. Photo by Caroline Phillips
blue door
Julia and Richard MacNeill, from OTUS Group, at Thyme & Again Kitchen + Food Shop for the launch of the upcoming Blue Door Gala. Photo by Caroline Phillips
blue door
Scotiabank's Frank and Steffanie Bilodeau at Thyme & Again Kitchen + Food Shop for the event launch of the upcoming Blue Door Gala. Photo by Caroline Phillips
blue door
Shepherds of Good Hope Foundation board member Melissa Shabinsky and her husband Ian Shabinsky at Thyme & Again Kitchen + Food Shop for the event launch of the upcoming Blue Door Gala. Photo by Caroline Phillips
blue door
Thyme & Again's Sheila Whyte is flanked by Juniper Farm supporters Gwen Mackay-Smith and Sandy Mackay-Smith, who's also treasurer of PAL Ottawa, at the kick off for the Blue Door Gala. Photo by Caroline Phillips

— caroline@obj.ca