Steel Toes and Stilettos Gala helps Ottawa families achieve 'strength, stability'

Evening draws business leaders, sports celebrities, in support of Habitat's 16-townhouse Orléans development

Hundreds came together Saturday night to build home ownership for low-income working families, one brick at a time, at Habitat for Humanity Greater Ottawa's 13th annual Steel Toes and Stilettos Gala, held at the Shaw Centre.

Organizers were hoping to bring in more than $100,000 for the non-profit organization, which works with community groups, donors and volunteers to construct safe, decent and affordable homes in Ottawa. The new abodes are sold with an interest-free mortgage to partner families, who, in turn, devote their own volunteer hours, including homebuilding.

Since 1993, Habitat for Humanity GO has served 76 local families.

The evening got underway with a champagne cocktail reception featuring Ottawa singer Jeff Rogers and circus artists from Montreal’s Cirque Carpe Diem. In a wonderful example of audience engagement, Luc Rancourt from Duron Services had an acrobatic artist successfully balance on his shoulders. 

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Gala-goer Luc Rancourt demonstrates that he does have what it takes to run away and join the circus. Photo by Caroline Phillips

The 400 guests dined on a main course of short ribs glazed with maple whiskey and local honey from Lacelle's Apiary. They also bid on silent and live auction items, took in more gasp-worthy performances from the circus artists, and heard inspiring stories from Habitat homeowners.

Returning as presenting sponsor was Laurin General Contractor, represented by owner Dennis Laurin with his wife, Andrea Laurin

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Andrea and Dennis Laurin, owner of presenting sponsor Laurin General Contractor, at Habitat for Humanity's 13th annual Steel Toes and Stilettos Gala, held at the Shaw Centre on Saturday, November 3, 2018. Photo by Caroline Phillips

The crowd was packed with leaders from the business community, particularly from the real estate industry, as well as some local sports celebrities. From the CFL East Division-winning Redblacks team were Kevin Brown, Avery Ellis, Kyries Hebert, A.C. Leonard and Nigel Romick. They enjoyed an exciting win the previous night in their home game against the Argos:

Retired Ottawa Senators player Chris Neil, a long-time fan favourite, attended with his wife, Caitlin, as guests of Myers Automotive Group.

Sabrina Fitzgerald, the new Ottawa managing partner of PwC, was out supporting the cause, as were Bernie Myers, who recently joined Regional Group as a senior vice president, and Clariti Group founding partner Kevin Barwin, who's on the board of Habitat for Humanity GO. So is Anne Van Delst, a partner at GGFL.

Habitat's board chair is Bob Ridley, past president of the Greater Ottawa Home Builders' Association, and owner of Skilbilt Construction.

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From left, Sabrina Fitzgerald, new Ottawa managing partner of PwC, with her husband Lee Fitzgerald and Nick Ethier (PwC), his wife, Amanda Ethier, Andrew Fairbairn and his wife, Tanya Hill-Lariviere (PwC) at Habitat for Humanity's 13th annual Steel Toes and Stilettos Gala, held at the Shaw Centre on Saturday, November 3, 2018. Photo by Caroline Phillips
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Bernie Myers, who recently joined Regional Group, with his wife, Annette Quinet, at Habitat for Humanity's 13th annual Steel Toes and Stilettos Gala, held at the Shaw Centre on Saturday, November 3, 2018. Photo by Caroline Phillips
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From left, Redblacks players A.C. Leonard, Avery Ellis, Kevin Brown, Nigel Romick and a bowtie-wearing Kyries Hebert at Habitat for Humanity's 13th annual Steel Toes and Stilettos Gala, held at the Shaw Centre on Saturday, November 3, 2018. Photo by Caroline Phillips
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Chris Neil with his wife, Caitlin, at Habitat for Humanity's 13th annual Steel Toes and Stilettos Gala, held at the Shaw Centre on Saturday, November 3, 2018. Photo by Caroline Phillips
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Habitat for Humanity GO board member and lawyer Emily Crocco with board chair Robert (Bob) Ridley, at Habitat for Humanity's 13th annual Steel Toes and Stilettos Gala, held at the Shaw Centre on Saturday, November 3, 2018. Photo by Caroline Phillips
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Kevin Barwin, founding partner with Clariti Group and a Habitat for Humanity GO board member, at the 13th annual Steel Toes and Stilettos Gala, held at the Shaw Centre on Saturday, November 3, 2018. Photo by Caroline Phillips

Habitat is currently raising funds for its Phase III of Leacross Landing. The 16-townhouse development is in Orléans and will be the organization's largest build to date. The first four homeowners took possession last June and the next four move in this February. The final eight homes are being built in 2019.

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Natalie Tommy, vice president of marketing for Nautical Lands Group, and her husband, Kevin Pidgeon, president and COO of Nautical Lands Group, at Habitat for Humanity's 13th annual Steel Toes and Stilettos Gala, held at the Shaw Centre on Saturday, November 3, 2018. Photo by Caroline Phillips
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From left, Murray Chown, planning and development director for Novatech, and his wife, Beth Chown, with Melanie Polowin and her husband, Michael Polowin, both law partners at Gowling WLG, at Habitat for Humanity's 13th annual Steel Toes and Stilettos Gala, held at the Shaw Centre on Saturday, November 3, 2018. Photo by Caroline Phillips
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From left, Marisa Casagrande with her husband, Fotenn partner Brian Casagrande, and Cecilia Da Silva with her husband, architect Roberto Campos, at Habitat for Humanity's 13th annual Steel Toes and Stilettos Gala, held at the Shaw Centre on Saturday, November 3, 2018. Photo by Caroline Phillips

The room heard from Alexis Ashworth, CEO of Habitat for Humanity GO. With her second child due this March, the subject of raising families was on her mind. She described her own carefree childhood, of living in a comfortable and safe home and playing outdoors until the street lights came on, and contrasted it to the cramped and dangerous living conditions facing many families that partner with Habitat for Humanity GO.

“I’ve seen children sharing a room with multiple siblings, where there’s no room to study and no room to bring friends over to play,” she told the dinner crowd.

Owning a Habitat home gives people a sense of belonging and hope, said Ashworth while sharing the thoughts of one Habitat homeowner, who stated: “For the first time in my life I have time to stop worrying about survival long enough to plan for the future.”

Ashworth concluded her remarks by telling the audience: “Each and every one of you in this room is part of building strength, stability and self-reliance for families in Ottawa. For that, I sincerely thank you.”

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From left, Dennis Laurin and his wife, Andrea, with Habitat for Humanity Greater Ottawa chief executive Alexis Ashworth and her husband, Brian Elliott, at the non-profit organization's 13th annual Steel Toes and Stilettos Gala, held at the Shaw Centre on Saturday, November 3, 2018. Photo by Caroline Phillips
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From left, articling student Marianne Abou-Hamad with Jennifer Lalonde and her husband, Emond Harnden LLP partner Paul Lalonde, and lawyer Neil Dzuba at Habitat for Humanity's 13th annual Steel Toes and Stilettos Gala, held at the Shaw Centre on Saturday, November 3, 2018. Photo by Caroline Phillips
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GGFL partner Anne Van Delst, who's also on the board of Habitat for Humanity GO, with her husband, Steve Burnett, and GGFL partner Natalie Evans and her husband, Roy Evans, at Habitat for Humanity's 13th annual Steel Toes and Stilettos Gala, held at the Shaw Centre on Saturday, November 3, 2018. Photo by Caroline Phillips
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From left, Jacqueline Belsito, V-P of philanthropy at the CHEO Foundation, with Ted Wagstaff, president of North45 Partnerships, and Jennifer Cross, new director of residential sales for FLUX Lighting, and her husband, Shannon Boschy, at Habitat for Humanity's 13th annual Steel Toes and Stilettos Gala, held at the Shaw Centre on Saturday, November 3, 2018. Photo by Caroline Phillips
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From left, Joanne Charron and her husband, Ray Charron, vice president of finance for Mattamy Homes, with lifestyle expert and blogger Melissa Lamb and her boyfriend, Redblacks defensive lineman Nigel Romick at Habitat for Humanity's 13th annual Steel Toes and Stilettos Gala, held at the Shaw Centre on Saturday, November 3, 2018. Photo by Caroline Phillips
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The 13th annual Steel Toes and Stilettos Gala, held at the Shaw Centre, featured performances from Montreal's Cirque Carpe Diem. Photo by Caroline Phillips

— caroline@obj.ca