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Cornerstone Housing for Women’s inaugural Purple Tie Gala was full style and splendour, with a light dose of comic relief, as partygoers turned out to the Ottawa Art Gallery on Saturday night to help homeless women in our community.

The first-time benefit attract a sold-out crowd of more than 300, many of whom arrived in their prettiest eye-popping purple attire and accessories. Not only is purple a trendy hue these days but it's a colour for symbolizing women, internationally.

Cornerstone Housing for Women provides emergency shelter and safe, affordable permanent housing for women in Ottawa. Many women turn to Cornerstone for help as the result of abuse and trauma, job loss and poverty, and mental health challenges and addictions. The organization’s goal is to help its clients rebuild their lives so they can have the hope and confidence to make a fresh start. 



The Purple Tie Gala netted nearly $50,000. That's a big step up from former fundraisers, which raised between $20,000 and $25,000 for Cornerstone.

Long-time supporter Frank Sukhoo of Sukhoo Sukhoo Couture— whose annual garden party fashion shows for Cornerstone were legendary — was back to lend his support. He dazzled arriving guests with a fashion installation that stretched up the first floor staircase. 

Guests continued up to the third-floor Alma Duncan Salon, which was adorned with orchids and other flowers. There, attendees were served beer from major sponsor Flora Hall Brewing, signature cocktails from Top Shelf Distillers, wine by Château des Charmes and food from the OAG’s Jackson Café.

What an absolute delight it was to have CBC newscaster Lucy van Oldenbarneveld host the gala with loveable community builder Joseph Cull as his outrageous drag persona, Dame Edna. She made her conspicuous grand entrance to the 1980 Diana Ross disco hit I'm Coming Out.

With their playful banter and great chemistry, the pair kept the crowd entertained throughout the evening. At one point, they had everyone on their feet, singing and waving their arms to Parachute Club’s Rise Up.

The evening also featured live music by nine-piece powerhouse band Sly High, presented by Third World Bazaar.

Joanne Livingston and Alan MacDonald, vice presidents and portfolio managers at Livingston MacDonald Wealth Management of RBC Dominion Securities, served as a presenting sponsor. The business partners first learned about Cornerstone through their friend, lawyer Paul LaBarge.

“Paul encouraged us both to know more about Cornerstone and the amazing group of people that really moves the needle on homelessness for women in our city,” Livingston said at the podium.

She and MacDonald were part of broader fundraising efforts for Cornerstone’s new supportive housing facility in Westboro. The building, at 373 Princeton Ave., is where 42 women now call home.

According to Cornerstone, there are nearly 1,000 women who are homeless or at risk of homelessness in Ottawa each year.

Serving as gala patron was British High Commissioner Susan le Jeune d'Allegeershecque, who, unfortunately, had to miss the gala. Diplomatic duty called her to Halifax for the arrival of the Royal Navy’s largest warship, the HMS Queen Elizabeth.

Le Jeune d'Allegeershecque spoke with sincerity, via video message, of how proud she was to be associated with the gala and its cause of finding safe and secure homes for women. Her youngest son is currently pursuing his PhD studies in women’s recovery from domestic violence. “I’m really proud of what he’s doing, and I wanted to make sure that I do my bit to support the work that Cornerstone is doing here tonight,” she added.

The high commissioner encouraged everyone to bid on her donation of a gin tasting experience for 10 people at her official residence, Earnscliffe. It sold for higher than its value, at $2,700, to Paula Thompson, an active member of the New Edinburgh community. 

Cull and his husband, Ian Engelberg, donated to the live auction a five-course dinner for 10 at their soon-to-be renovated Rockcliffe Park-area home. The dinner will be provided by Thyme & Again Creative Catering and four local chefs, including chefs Tim Stock and Michael Moffatt. It also sold over its value, raising $2,600.

Other items auctioned off were: a personal transformation package from Victory Strength & Boxing, an automotive spa package from Sean Getty Automotive Services, and a six-day South African safari for two at Zulu Nyala, with meals and accommodation. It sold twice to the two top bidders, at $4,600 each. 

One of the safari winners was Teresa Parrington. She and her Enercare business partner Derek Di Nuzzo have partnered with Cornerstone to provide personalized packages to help Cornerstone clients get back on their feet and feel comfortable as they transition into the supportive housing community. Their packages are filled with basic necessities and small luxuries.

As well, attendees included Peter John Hobbs, the director of mission for the Anglican Diocese of Ottawa, and retired Cornerstone executive director Sue Garvey, who just received the Key to the City of Ottawa. The organization's new ED is Kia Rainbow.

Also seen were Emond Harnden co-founding law partner Jacques Emond; Ottawa philanthropist and women’s advocate Shirley Greenberg, Ottawa Centre NDP MPP Joel Harden, The Ottawa Mission Foundation executive director Sean Wong, and OBJ publisher Michael Curran and his wife, Catrina, who rode the O-Train to the gala from their east-end home, on the very first day of having the city's LRT open to the public. 

Anna Rumin and Andrea Laurin were at the gala. They're helping to raise money for Cornerstone by organizing a pop-up shop of fashionable, gently used women’s clothing, shoes and accessories. It’s being held at AllSaints Event Space on Saturday, November 16th.

The gala was organized with the help of more than 40 volunteers. The real go-getter was Jessie-Lee Wallace, resource development manager for Cornerstone.

“I can’t believe what she’s achieved,” said volunteer committee member Andrea Tomkins while assessing the packed room. “Look at all these people; it’s a sell-out event. It’s a testament to how much love there is for Cornerstone in our community and the important work that they do.”

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