Wouldn’t it be nice this Thanksgiving to just put on a pair of stretchy waist pants and feast away, all while barely lifting a finger?
The Shepherds of Good Hope is making it possible for the public to do just that while simultaneously raising money to feed the homeless and hungry on a holiday geared toward gratitude and giving thanks.
Local chefs are cooking up turkey dinners with all the fixings as part of a new fundraising event called Gobble For Hope. Proceeds are going to Shepherds of Good Hope, a nonprofit organization that runs Ottawa's largest homeless shelters, for both men and women, as well as supportive housing facilities, clothing and food programs, and other vital services that help individuals living with chronic mental illness, addictions and trauma.
David Gourlay joined the Shepherds of Good Hope Foundation as its director of philanthropy last spring, just as the COVID-19 pandemic arrived. The organization had to quickly change the way it was fundraising because of the strict health and safety measures taken to mitigate the spread of the virus.
“We have to fundamentally run our events differently,” Gourlay told OBJ.social.
The Foundation has partnered up with several Ottawa businesses to create Gobble For Hope, which will prepare and deliver Thanksgiving dinners to people's front doors. It features the classic bird with stuffing, mashed potatoes, vegetables, gravy and cranberry sauce for six people, at a price of $150.
Stephen La Salle is the executive chef at the Andaz Ottawa ByWard Market at 325 Dalhousie St. – about four blocks away from the Shepherds of Good Hope, located at 233 Murray St.
On Monday, La Salle was at the hotel making the stuffing and cranberry sauce for 360 servings as part of Gobble For Hope. He and his team have been known to regularly cook meals at the Shepherds, either for the homeless or for the volunteers’ appreciation night. As well, when the pandemic first hit, Andaz was among the hotels and restaurants to generously donate their perishable goods to the Shepherds.
“We want to be good neighbours,” said La Salle, while recognizing that many of the Shepherds’ clients have it tough. "Cooking is love, at its core, and if you have the opportunity to do that for someone else, you should do it," said La Salle.
The Andaz property is owned by the Malhotras, a prominent Ottawa real estate developer family. It's one of dozens of hotels and restaurants that participate each year in Taste For Hope, a popular evening of food, wine, beer and socializing in support of the Shepherds. It took place this year in early March, when there were few signs that the COVID-19 lockdown was just around the corner.
La Salle says he looks back on that evening now with particular fondness.
“Taste for Hope is even more special to me now," he said, adding that it was the last time life felt normal in 2020.
Andaz boasts the city’s highest rooftop bar, Copper Spirits and Sights. It consists of both an indoor lounge and outdoor patio overlooking the city. Copper has been operating more like a pop-up restaurant these days to compensate for the temporary closure of the hotel's restaurant, Feast + Revel, at the onset of the pandemic.
The Shepherds has partnered with Andaz, Infinity Convention Centre, the Centurion Conference & Event Centre and food service distributor Orleans Fresh Fruit for its Gobble For Hope fundraiser, which is based on the "get a meal, give a meal" concept.
As of Monday, the turkey dinner orders had just sold out but the Foundation is asking the public to consider making a donation to help Shepherds of Good Hope cover the costs of serving hot meals to more than 700 clients this Thanksgiving. The food is being served over different lunch time slots on Sunday, with no more than 30 clients indoors at a time.
A $50 donation, for example, will provide dinners for 20 clients. Donations are being matched up to $5,000 by engineering consulting firm Keller Engineering.
“Food security and shelter are something that everyone in our community should have access to,” Keller Engineering president Justin Tudor told OBJ.social. “By matching donations we hope to encourage our colleagues within the industry, along with the community at large, to take a moment to think about our community’s most vulnerable men and women.
“During this pandemic, we’ve all felt what it’s like to be isolated,” Tudor also said, adding that his company wants Shepherds’ clients to know that they’re not alone. “The community is here for them.”
The Foundation is expecting to raise at least $10,000 from Gobble For Hope.