By Charlie Senack
Residents of Unitarian House are gearing up for their second annual Grand Parade fundraising event.
The first event was initiated last September after the not-for-profit retirement and seniors’ apartment residence started receiving fewer donations due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The first event was held out of necessity,” said Unitarian House Executive Director Mélanie Lefebvre. “In the past, it had always been galas, dinners and things like that — which, obviously during the peak of the pandemic, were not possible anymore. This walk was a really nice and creative way of addressing that. We were able to walk [physically distanced] in our neighbourhood.”
After Unitarian House raised over $50,000 in 2021, they set a goal to raise $75,000 this year. The funds will go towards a program that ensures residents will never have to leave because of financial troubles.
As the only not-for-profit retirement residence in Ottawa—and one of about 15 in Canada—the facility doesn’t receive any government funding; it runs solely on donations. Last year, they spent $96,000 on their programs.
“It’s really our mission to ensure that people who live at Unitarian House never have to leave because they can’t afford it,” said Lefebvre.
If that happens, Unitarian House steps in with their programs to ensure residents have access to meal programs and 24/7 nursing.
“Most of the people who move in here are very independent: they live in their apartments and don’t need a lot of support,” Lefebvre said. “Some of our residents have lived here for 20 years, so, as they age, perhaps someone will need a little bit of assistance to get up in the morning, get dressed, bathe or cook meals.”
In a few years, Unitarian House will turn 40. Some of the funds raised at this year’s event will go towards improving infrastructure in the aging building.
“We recently paid off our mortgage, and we are trying to keep it going and keep it up to date,” said Lefebvre. “We don’t have central air conditioning, so it gets very hot in the summer, and, with global warming, we only expect it to get hotter. That would be a great program to put in place for the apartments.”
The Grand Parade is set to get underway on Sept. 17, beginning at 11 a.m. The walk will be followed by a light meal served to participants.
As of late August, Unitarian House had reached 30 per cent of their goal, raising a little over $22,600. At least seven teams made up of 24 individuals will be participating.
Lefebvre says it’s not too late to register your own team and take part. Unitarian House is also looking for sponsorships to bring in even more funds.
“We appreciate all the support we are receiving from the community,” she said. “All funds raised go directly towards ensuring our residents can continue to call Unitarian House home.”
For more information and to register, visit thegrandparade.org
This story ran in the Giving section of Kitchissippi Times in the September 2022 edition.