Restaurateur Katie Valente is one of many small business owners in Westboro Village who's doing what she can to support the Cornerstone Housing for Women's signature fundraiser, the Purple Tie Gala.
She understands more than most how quickly life can change unexpectedly. She was a stay-at-home mom of three young children when she lost her 46-year-old husband Roberto to brain cancer in early 2015.
“I know I’m lucky,” she says of having her late husband’s family business to fall back on (she took over the Westboro location of popular Italian restaurant Fratelli). “I just look at it as, my life could have taken a very different turn after my husband passed away. I was left in a position where I didn’t have to struggle financially.”
Fratelli has donated, among other things, $20 gift cards to the first 50 ticket buyers for the Purple Tie Gala, now in its third year.
“Anything that Cornerstone asks me for, I’m like, ‘Yup, okay, no problem’,” said Valente.
The gala is returning to the virtual world this Saturday, Oct. 2 with an evening that promises to be entertaining, engaging and enlightening. All proceeds from the event will help Cornerstone provide programs and services to vulnerable women in Ottawa who are homeless or at risk of homelessness.
Joseph Cull, who’s been delighting Cornerstone supporters for years with his unparalleled personality and presence, is co-hosting the one-hour show with the organization’s new executive director, Sarah Davis. There will also be live music from Good Advice, an Ottawa-based 10-piece funky soul band, an online silent auction and a couple more fun surprises.
Organizers are well on their way to another sold-out event. Almost two-thirds of 200 tickets are gone, since first becoming available for purchase a couple weeks ago. “It’s incredible, actually. We’re pretty happy about it,” said Amber Bramer, resource development and communications manager for Cornerstone Housing for Women.
Tickets are $95, with each purchaser receiving gift baskets curated with treats from local shops in Westboro, along with beer from Flora Hall Brewing and a bottle of wine.
Cornerstone is looking to repeat the success of last year’s sold-out Purple Tie Gala. It raised $73,000 and drew an audience so big that it would never fit within the confines of a venue.
“I was really excited by how it touched the entire community,” said Joanne Livingston, vice-president and portfolio manager with Livingston Wealth Management of RBC Dominion Securities. She’s back as presenting sponsor for her third year with Alan MacDonald, vice-president and portfolio manager with MacDonald Wealth Management of RBC Dominion Securities.
Livingston says, on one hand, she really enjoyed the convenience and accessibility of a virtual show that could be watched from any location. On the other hand, she found the experience of attending the inaugural gala in 2019 to have been pretty special, too. “I have to admit, getting dressed up like that was probably one of the most fun evenings ever.”
Organizers are hoping to get supporters back under one roof for next year’s gala but, meanwhile, it’s encouraging participants to get into the spirit by donning their favourite purple attire and sharing photos of themselves on social media while enjoying the evening on Oct. 2.
Also sponsoring this year's gala are Westboro Village BIA, Ottawa labour and employment law firm Emond Harnden, CrossPoint Financial, Lupiano Executive Search, Rogers TV, Flora Hall Brewery, and Ottawa-based communications technology company bluArc.
According to Judy Lincoln, executive director of the Westboro Village BIA, there was never any question that the shops in Westboro would maintain their support of Cornerstone, despite having to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic these past 18 months.
“It’s been such a challenging year for the businesses but they are really happy to continue supporting the community,” she said.
Cornerstone runs five supportive housing programs, a women’s emergency shelter and an outreach program. Its most recent project is a 42-unit long-term supportive housing facility located on Princeton Avenue. The home, which is a renovated former convent, is as much a part of Westboro as, say, the Dovercourt Recreation Centre or the soon-to-be-renamed SJAM Winter Trail, said Lincoln, who describes the BIA’s relationship with Cornerstone as “very much like a partnership”.
In return, Cornerstone does what it can to promote Westboro and to highlight the neighbourhood businesses helping to make a difference. “It really is so wonderful to be an active member of the community and to be able to embrace that relationship,” said Davis, who stepped into her new role in January, having previously been executive director of the Elizabeth Fry Society of Ottawa. She remains on the board for the Alliance to End Homelessness.
“It’s been a really quick and intense eight months but I wouldn’t change a moment of it,” said Davis of her new job. “I really hit the ground running and, on day two, I knew I made the right decision. My values and vision are so closely aligned with Cornerstone.
“I’m just so proud to be leading a team that continues to show up each and every day to do the difficult work for the women that we serve.”
For more information about this year's Purple Tie Gala, go to https://cornerstonewomen.ca/purple-tie-gala/.