Like any good food, the fundraiser organized by Joseph Flowers and the Native Women’s Shelter was done with fresh ingredients, good people, and garnished with love.
The third-year McGill University law student heard about the shelter’s loss of funding last year when he met the director at a radio show where they were both being interviewed. For the past 10 years, the organization received much of its support from the Aboriginal Healing Foundation, but the contract ended in 2010, forcing the centre to cut its innovative community outreach programs to make ends meet.
“What the women’s shelter does is something is very important to me, so I was happy to have an idea to help them out in their time of need,” says Flowers.
Having been trained as a cook before he hung up his chef’s hat for law, he thought the best way to attract guests would be to tantalize the taste buds.
“We all have different skills and one of the skills that I have is to cook food,” he says. “I think that a lot of important discussions can be generated around food. When you feed people, it gives them something to talk about, something to think about outside of the same old conferences, and talks, and books, and all those kinds of things.
“Feeding people is another kind of awareness that touches people [in a way that the other methods don’t].”
So on March 20, Flowers and his team of professional servers and helpers released an onslaught of five drool-worthy courses to the hungry masses. It cost $75 a ticket to attend the event, but guests dug deep for the good cause.
“We were sold out, we oversold,” he says. “It was packed, it was so busy, but also very well-planned. We had extraordinary volunteers.”
“We sold 42 of the 70 tickets in the first week,” says Melissa Isaac, who is on the shelter’s board of directors. “Everyone was so generous.”
Isaac raves about the event’s success. “The food was delicious. So much warmth in the room, and people were so generous. There was nothing but compliments.”
Flowers used contacts from his old life as a chef to grab talent to help ensure the night ran smoothly.
At the end of the foodie skirmish, the financial results of the dinner and silent auction tallied up to more than $13,000 and counting, says Isaac.
“We’re still getting calls from people who couldn’t make it to the event but still want to donate,” she notes.
Although the event was successful, Flowers emphasizes that it can’t be a one-time deal. “When I started this whole thing, I aimed at raising $5,000 for them, but we ended up doubling that. But this represents only 10 per cent of the amount of money they had cut.
We were generating interest and awareness of the needs of the Native Women’s Shelter [for] support throughout the year.”