Shepherds of Good Hope (SOGH), a non-profit organization dedicated to getting chronically homeless people off the streets, out of shelters and into a place they can safely call home, reached a major milestone this week.
It officially has more men and women living in supportive housing than it does in its shelters.
The head of the organization proudly shared the news Wednesday during an after-work reception hosted at the Audi City Ottawa dealership. The gathering was for sponsors of the organization’s upcoming signature fundraiser and foodie extravaganza, Taste for Hope, presented by Ideal Roofing.
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“We’ve actually tipped the scale,” Deirdre Freiheit, president and CEO of SOGH and SOGH Foundation, told everyone. Shepherds has just moved 57 more people into its newest supportive housing residence on Merivale Road. “All of you helped us do that,” she told the donors, appreciatively.
SOGH now has 293 residents living in its supportive housing facilities, located throughout the city. It houses 250 men and women in its shelters each night, on average. The organization plans to continue building supportive housing as safer, healthier and more dignified alternatives to shelters, which are “no place for anybody for any length of time,” said Freiheit.
The positive new development helped to build on the excitement for Taste for Hope, which is all set to return to the Horticulture Building at Lansdowne on Wednesday, June 14. The evening will feature yummy offerings from 16 local chefs, an assortment of drinks and beverage options, and ample opportunity for mingling, networking and even bumping into people you may not have seen in years.
Liza Mrak, executive vice president and co-owner of Mark Motors Group, welcomed guests on behalf of the whole team at the Audi store at Lansdowne. She was joined by her brother, dealer principal Michael Mrak.
Liza is the returning co-chair of Taste for Hope with her husband, Gary Zed, founder and CEO of Canada’s Forest Trust. The couple is a philanthropic powerhouse that has donated to and raise money for numerous causes.
With Liza and Zed’s support and business connections, said organizers, Taste for Hope netted $270,000 last year (by comparison, it grossed $27,000 during its augural year, back in 2013).
“They’re true ambassadors of hope, in terms of being able to connect our organization to people in the community that may not know too much about us,” David Gourlay, vice president of philanthropy at SOGH Foundation, told OBJ.social of the co-chairs’ volunteer leadership.
The Shepherds’ supportive housing program helps individuals, some of whom live with mental health or addictions issues, to live independently in the community with whatever support they may require.
Among the sponsors in attendance were Peter Scrivens, brother Michael Scrivens and Claude Miron, all partners at Scrivens Insurance and Investment Solutions, with Michael’s son, Jake Scrivens, who’s the commercial account manager. Also supporting the cause were Mary Taggart, publisher and editor in chief of Ottawa At Home Magazine; Emond Harnden LLP founding partner Jacques Emond; Ian Shabinsky, principal at Glenview Management, with his wife, Melissa Shabinsky, who’s been bolstering Shepherds for years; and former Forty Under 40 recipient Justin Tudor, president of Keller Engineering.
Carole Saad, owner of Chic + Swell Event Designers and LouLou Lounge Furniture, is helping out with the fundraiser, as are Paul Meek, owner of Kichesippi Beer, and Jonathan Hatchell, vice president with Dunrobin Distilleries.
The SOGH board is led by Dave Donaldson, retired dean of Algonquin College’s business school, while its foundation board is chaired by Mark Roundell, retired senior portfolio manager at RBC Dominion Securities. Gowling WLG partner John Peters, whose remarkable involvement with SOGH stretches back 30 years, has emeritus status with the organization. He created the Shepherds’ long-running Grinch Dinner benefit, which he’s been co-chairing in recent years with Melissa Shabinsky.
This year marks the 10th anniversary of Taste for Hope. It’s now more than 50 per cent sold out, with tickets priced at $200 each. Robin Duetta, who was at Wednesday’s reception, has been involved with the event since the beginning, having helped to create it. The backbone of the fundraiser remains the chefs, who donate their time, talent and ingredients, said Duetta, who believes the event would otherwise cost about $60,000 to cater.
Taste for Hope is also an opportunity for the chefs and restaurateurs to connect with their community and perhaps attract new clientele, he added. “Many of them talk about how they see many of the guests back in their restaurant shortly after the event.”
Participating chefs and restaurants include Joe Thottungal (Coconut Lagoon, Thali), Raghav Chaudhary (Aiāna), Sheila Whyte and Mike Moffatt from Thyme & Again Creative Catering, Kenton Leier from the National Arts Centre’s 1 Elgin, Chelsea-based Les Fougères, Justin Champagne Lagarde (Perch), Paolo di Bello, (Starling) Ryan Edwards (Le St. Laurent), Stephen La Salle (Cocottte Bistro), Ian Carswell (Black Tartan Kitchen), David Godsoe (Restaurant e18hteen), Trudy Metcalfe-Coe (Madahoki Farm), Jesse Bell, David Vinoya (Tulip restaurant at Hilton Garden Inn & Homewood Suites), Matt Robitaille (Grounded Kitchen) and SOGH’s Seva Group, which consists of volunteers from the Indo-Canadian community. They drop in every week to cook meals for Shepherds’ clients.
Duetta also said he’s proud to be part of Taste for Hope, as it’s a way for him to help honour the strong leadership of Freiheit. She recently announced her plans to leave SOGH later next month, after nine-plus years with the organization.
Ryan E. Watson from Raising the Bid will be back to sell off experiential packages, including donated group dinners from Aiāna and from Coconut Lagoon/Thali.
For more information about Taste for Hope or how to buy a ticket, check out the SOGH website.