By Joseph Hutt –
After a successful charity dinner on April 25, Kristy’s Restaurant made a sizable donation to the residents of the Unitarian House of Ottawa. During the April 29 ceremony, Kristy’s owner, Walter Boyce, and manager, Steven Blake, presented a cheque for $5,608, which was then accepted by Unitarian House Executive Director, Christina O’Neil.
Kristy’s and Unitarian House have maintained a longstanding and supportive relationship, with Walter and Steve always being more than ready to help their neighbours reach their goals. While hosting a dinner of this size was a first, they certainly rose to the occasion.
“The guys in the kitchen were a little bit nervous,” Steve admits. “We’ve never done a thing where we’ve had that many people come through the door all at once. But we put 120 people through the first round, and the second was another 110 or so.”
While the rush certainly kept the kitchen staff on their toes, it was for a cause they could all get behind.
For the past 32 years, Unitarian House has been helping elderly folk who have been overlooked by the current social support systems. Through their financial assistance and rent-geared-to-income programs, they have made a crucial impact on the lives of many nonagenarians.
“What’s happening is… seniors are living longer,” Christina explains. “Some of them didn’t plan to be 96, 97, 98 years old and they’re running out of money. We financially subsidize their rents to live here.”
This is also done without any form of government assistance.
“The government doesn’t recognize that this is a problem,” Christina continues. “The people, we know how to keep them alive longer, but we don’t know what to do with them.”
With over one hundred seniors making use of their services, Unitarian House relies heavily on fundraising to ensure that the facility runs smoothly and remains an affordable refuge for those in need.
This year’s costs come to $26,000 for six people in need of financial assistance, and $75,000 to support the rent-geared-to-income program, but demands are constantly in flux.
“People are getting older and their needs are changing,” says Christina. “So every year I fundraise $100,000 just to meet the added needs of 130 seniors.”
While this goal may be large, she never worries.
“I’ve never had a problem raising the $100,000,” continues Christina. “That’s just because of the community here, our neighbours like Kristy’s Restaurant, [and] the people, the families that support us.”
And it is support that Kristy’s offers readily.
“We see a lot of these people day in and day out,” Steve explains.
In fact, many of the Unitarian House residents have become a kind of extended family to the Kristy’s staff.
“There’s a woman who lives here who buys my kids birthday presents, makes them jewelry and whatnot for special occasions,” says Steve. “When you have kids here, you have access to a whole lot of grandparents.”
What’s the secret to such a tight-knit community, you may ask? Well, location just might have something to do with it.
“If you go down through our backyard there’s actually a gate into Kristy’s Restaurant,” Christina confides. “You just walk through. You don’t need to drive, you can just walk over. It’s perfect!”
“People are getting older and their needs are changing,” says Christina O’Neil. “So every year I fundraise $100,000 just to meet the added needs of 130 seniors.”