Articles by: Julie Cormier-DoironJulie Cormier-Doiron
Julie Cormier-Doiron is a writer and event planner with a passion for arts and culture. A graduate from the University of Ottawa and La Cité collégiale, she works in the not-for-profit sector as a communications manager. Originally from NB, Julie has called Ottawa home for almost ten years. In her free time, she is most likely attending concerts, watching UFC or volunteering. To contact, please email:

Celebrating Ottawa’s Colourful Community

August 16, 2012 5:40 pm
Celebrating Ottawa’s Colourful Community

Ottawa’s queer community and its allies will be coming together and celebrating at this year’s Ottawa Pride Festival.

Known as Ottawa’s most colourful festival, Capital Pride will be hosting various events and activities in celebration of the Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender and Queer (LGBTQ) community. “Once a year, our community has the opportunity to come together and celebrate its positive contributions to the greater community, the National Capital Region,” says Mark Power, vice-chair of communications of Capital Pride.

This year marks Capital Pride’s 27th anniversary.  From August 17 to 26, various activities will be taking place. The theme of this year’s festival is Come Out and Play! “This year’s theme captures the positive and celebratory spirit of the festival and will encourage members of the community to come together in Pride,” explains Power. “There might be a double meaning in there too (i.e. coming out), but no pressure – come as you are!”

Large crowds gathered at City Hall at last year's Capital Pride

Volunteers play a crucial role in the organization and execution of Capital Pride. “Our festival would not be possible without the hard work and dedication of its volunteers,” says Power.  “The event organizers, board members and festival crew are all volunteers.”

The programming offered during Pride is varied and targeted to the Ottawa’s diverse LGBTQ community. Some of the festival’s highlights include events organized by Capital Pride’s community partners: the Leather Pride Brunch, Pride Week Karaoke, and a comedy night entitled Laugh Out Proud 8. Every year, a Pancake Breakfast is hosted by the Ottawa Police Services. In addition, the Capital Pride Awards Gala will be recognizing Ottawa’s queer community leaders.

Fun for the Whole Family

There are also family friendly activities such as the Pride Parade and the Picnic in the Park. This year’s Picnic in the Park is hosted by Capital Pride, Rainbow Family Services, Children’s Aid Society and Ten Oaks and will be happening August 21st at 4pm at the Hintonburg Community Center (1064 Wellington St). Burgers and hotdogs will be served, and there are fun activities for the kids, crafts & lots of fun for the whole family. There is no charge for this event.

Getting Youth Involved

Every year, the festival features programming targeted specifically to youth. The second annual Pride Prom will be taking place August 24th at Falldown Gallery. Last year’s event was a huge success and Capital Pride wishes to continue offering fun events for young members of the LGBTQ community. Capital Pride’s Youth Program Coordinator, Jodie McNamara, explains the importance of getting youth involved in the festivities.  “If the role of Capital Pride is to celebrate our sometimes undervalued diversity, the role of Capital Pride’s Youth Committee is to assert that diversity anew,” said McNamara. Youth interested in participating or getting involved can visit the Capital Pride Youth Facebook page.

Families gathered at City Hall during 2011 Capital Pride festival.

Entertainment on the Big Stage

On the last weekend of Capital Pride, there will be entertainment at City Hall, on both the Alternative Stage and the Main stage. Admission is $5 to access the site and there will be a variety of vendors on site offering a variety of delicious foods and drinks. On Saturday, the Alternative Stage, which was introduced at Capital Pride last year, will feature musical acts like Jack Pine + The Fire, Kidstreet, Ornaments, Fevers, and the PepTides.

Every year, the Capital Pride festivities culmenate with the Pride Parade, happening on the last Sunday of the festival. This event is free for everyone. After the parade, musical acts will be performing on the Main Stage at City Hall. Performers include Hunter Valentine, Young Empires and Cherry Bomb.

Supporting the Community

Although they might not identify as queer, Power explains that allies and supporters of Ottawa’s queer community get involved in the festival every year. “We have several allies and supporters already involved in various volunteer capacities,” explains Power. “We hope to see everyone at the festival – the more diverse the crowd the better.”

There is no shortage of fun activities happening during this year’s Capital Pride festival. So be sure to get involved and support our LGBTQ community. For more information on Capital Pride and to check out the programming schedule, visit

Shakespeare in Ottawa’s Great Outdoors

July 27, 2012 9:00 am
Shakespeare in Ottawa’s Great Outdoors

Every summer, local theatre enthusiasts gather in parks around the city to experience productions by A Company of Fools. As part of Torchlight Shakespeare, the company has presented an outdoor production during the summer season since 2003.

Scott Florence is the artistic director of A Company of Fools, which is Ottawa’s longest running, independent professional Shakespeare theatre company. “What makes the Fools unique is how we combine the style of physical and popular theatre with Shakespeare,” Florence explains. The company’s goal is to make Shakespeare accessible to audiences.

MacDonald as Henry V. Photo: Andrew Alexander

This summer, the Fools are mounting a production of Henry V. Florence explains, “We don’t parody Shakespeare; we bring a loving sense of play to the work, and that joy of playing with the text. That’s what makes the company special, and keeps audiences of all ages engaged.”

The production of Henry V includes everything from clowns to puppets, comedy and singing. The cast includes five actors who each play several roles, except for Margo MacDonald, who plays the main character of King Henry. MacDonald, one of the founders of A Company of Fools, shines in her role as the young King of England. Most of the characters in the play (both primary and secondary) are male, and four out of the five cast members are female, so gender-crossing plays a big role in this production, which adds an element of fun and surprise to the experience.

Over the summer, the company will mount 42 performances in 31 different locations in the city. “We have performed in many of these parks for many years,” says Florence, “but we always add a couple of new parks each year to explore new neighbourhoods and find new audiences.”

Photo: Andrew Alexander

The Fools present two shows a year, an outdoor production in the summer, and one indoor production during the cooler seasons. According to Florence, the summer production is chosen based on something that will challenge the group artistically. “We’ve never done one of the histories outdoors before, and Henry V is a beautiful piece that has some very, very funny scenes in it,” he added.

The Fools’ outdoor summer productions are family friendly. When putting an outdoor production, the Fools ensure that the content is appropriate for people of all ages. “Many families come and bring their kids,” says Florence. “We often get feedback from parents saying how surprised and delighted they were to discover that their four-year-old was held entranced by the entire production!”

Not only are the productions family friendly, but some shows also require audience participation, keeping patrons engaged. “We work to include audience participation into our shows,” says Florence, “sometimes in a very passive way, sometimes in a more active way.”

Photo: Andrew Alexander

To mount their productions, A Company of Fools relies heavily on volunteers. According to Jasmine Murray-Bergquist, assistant festival coordinator, the company has a team of approximately 80 volunteers assisting in various capacities. Most volunteers assist with front of house duties during the summer, including handing out programs, helping people find places to set up their chairs or blankets, setting up torches, selling t-shirts, pins and clown noses, as well as answering some general questions from patrons. “We have about six volunteers helping every night,” added Murray-Bergquist.

So far, the group has received very good feedback from patrons. “The truest test of positive feedback is how many people are coming to each show, and how generous they are being with the hat!” shares Florence. The production has also received good reviews from both traditional media and the various theatre blog sites.

Photo: Andrew Alexander

Interested in catching Henry V? No need to worry. There is still plenty of time to catch the Fools in action. There will be a show in Strathcona Park every Monday night from July 2nd to August 18th. A full schedule and list of locations is available on the company’s website. According to Florence, Torchlight Shakespeare is worth checking out because it’s a great way to spend a summer evening, and enjoy comedy under the open sky.

Performances begin at 7 p.m. sharp and are 90 minutes in length, without an intermission. Admission is “pass-the-hat-and-pay-what-you-can” with a $15 suggested donation. Organizers recommend bringing a blanket or lawn chair to sit on, and bug spray.

Ottawa’s Urban Artists Connect at Ravenswing

May 23, 2012 9:12 am
Ottawa’s Urban Artists Connect at Ravenswing

With summer rearing its head, Ottawans are getting excited for the multitude of community events coming up. For local art enthusiasts, Ravenswing is an event not to be missed.

Ravenswing is an urban artist market that features local artists, merchants and musicians. Referred as Ottawa’s D-I-Y fair, this annual event has an interdisciplinary focus in displaying Ottawa’s talent. The event is free of charge and will take place on May 27 in Centertown’s Minto Park.

The event will feature different types of vendors, including book binding and book repair, pottery, baked goods, soaps, t-shirts as well as various jewellery vendors. There will be a comic artist in attendance, who makes sketches of various Ottawa landmarks.  The Toronto Zine Library will also have a table at the event. “There’s something for everyone at Ravenswing,” said Sean Zio, co-founder of Ravenswing. “It’s a unique market of local talent for a reasonable price.”

This year’s event will feature 70 vendors. Photo by Sarah Lendore

This year’s event will feature 70 vendors. “For the first few years of Ravenswing, the event featured around 25 vendors, so the event has really grown,” said Zio. He explained that most of the vendors are returning vendors, but there are also new vendors that are attracted to the event. Over 60% of merchandise that is sold at Ravenswing  is priced $20 or less. The event last year drew between 2,000 and 3,000 people during the day.

One of the highlights of the event is Yoga in the park. Ravenswing will feature entertainment, including local bands and local DJ’s. In addition, patrons can participate in free skill-sharing, community-building workshops, organized by Les Ateliers. Ravenswing has also organized a silent art auction as a way to incorporate more visual art into the event. There will be a dozen pieces available for auction. Artists will get 50% of the proceeds and the other 50% will go back to Ravenswing in order to cover operational costs.

Ravenswing is an independently-run, self-funded artist fair, which is why it’s referred as Ottawa’s D-I-Y fair. The organization receives no government funding, which gives the coordinators more autonomy. “All the money we collect from vendors goes to paying the space, renting the tables, and covering other operational costs,” explained Zio.

Zio explained his motivation behind the creation of Ravenswing. As a struggling artist, Zio was looking to sell his tote bags and zines (small, independent magazines). After searching for opportunities to sell his items, he discovered some cool events in other cities, but nothing in Ottawa. After attending a few craft fairs in Ottawa, Zio found that the vendors’ fees were too expensive.  “I really wanted to start a low-cost vendors’ fair, where I could sell my things,” continued Zio. After attending a zine event at the Ottawa Art Gallery, Zio met Ravenswing co-founder, Faye Estrella. Both of them had ideas of starting a zine and craft fair. “Within two weeks, we had booked the Jack Purcell centre, thought of the name Ravenswing, and created the idea behind the fair,” explained Zio. “From there, the event has kept growing.” When the event started seven years ago, it took place indoors at Jack Purcell Community Centre. After its inauguration, the event moved outdoors to Minto Park. Ravenswing has called Minto Park home ever since.

Ravenswing is an independently-run, self-funded artist fair, which is why it’s referred as Ottawa’s D-I-Y fair. Photo by Sarah Lendore

When asked the meaning behind the name Ravenswing, Zio explained that ravens are often considered a totem of Ottawa, especially because of the Carleton Ravens. In addition, the raven’s wing is black, a unified colour but in the light, the wing is like a rainbow, with many different colours, representing diversity. According to Zio, while the Raven’s wing is unified, it is also diverse. “The name really represents the event well,” he said.

All the volunteers who run Ravenswing are all artists, designers, musicians, which, according to Zio, brings authenticity to the event. “When Ravenswing began, there were two people running the event,” said Zio. “Now, there are a dozen volunteers who coordinate the event.”

Community Spirit and Collaboration

The idea behind Ravenswing is community spirit and collaboration. Zio and his team work in partnership with the Clothesline Project, an initiative that seeks to bring awareness to the issue of violence against women, for the past six years. Women and children survivors of violence paint t-shirts with their personal messages. The shirts are hung on a clothesline and are exhibited for the public.

The partnership began when both organizations were looking to book Minto Park on the same day for their respective events; they then decided to collaborate.  “It worked out very nicely and we’ve been partnering with them ever since,” said Zio. “Ravenswing allows the project to gain more exposure because of the foot traffic that our event brings.” Zio saw this as a great opportunity to help their cause and get some extra hands on board to help set up their event .

In addition, this year’s Ravenswing is being held at the same time as another community event: Ladyfest Ottawa’s Tarts’ n Crafts fair. Instead of holding competing events, both events are being promoted together, as a double-date bill. As Zio puts it, “the more, the merrier.”

Supporting Local Talent

It is important to provide local vendors with a market in Ottawa. Photo by Sarah Lendore

Zio believes that it is important to provide local vendors with a market in Ottawa. He explained that the craft market changed a lot in the last seven years. “Back in the day, there were only Christmas fairs and Art in the Park,” said Zio. “We wanted to do something different.” Ravenswing is not juried and does not have a limit on space for vendors, which, according to Zio, allows for more diversity. It distinguishes itself from other craft fairs with their large number of vendors, the skill-sharing workshops and the entertainment they offer.

People can expect many art-related events during the summer.  Now is the perfect opportunity to take advantage of the lovely weather and check out what Ottawa’s best have to offer.

Ravenswing takes place on May 27 from 11pm to 4pm at Minto Park, Elgin Street at Gilmour Street.

SOS Mayfair: Orleans Cinema Seeks More Support

May 16, 2012 5:53 pm
SOS Mayfair: Orleans Cinema Seeks More Support

Since opening on December 2nd back in 1932, the original Mayfair Theatre, located in Lower Town, has become a landmark in the community. A second location of the independent cinema opened on December 2, 2011 in Ottawa’s East end, near Place d’Orleans. Although the Mayfair Orleans is still in its early stage of operations, it is on the edge of calling it quits.

Lee Demarbre, Programmer at the Mayfair Theatre, grew up in Orleans. Growing up, Demarbre had to travel downtown anytime he wanted to catch a movie until a theatre finally opened in Orleans in the late 1980s. “I met my wife in high school and took her on many dates to that theatre,” says Demarbre. “That theatre meant something to me.”

Old Star Wars helmets on display are just one part of the old theatre's charm.

Initially owned by Cineplex Odeon, the cinema was then taken over by Empire Theatres and ultimately closed in 2009. After taking his son to the First Choice next to the former cinema, Demarbre found out that the space was vacant. “I hated seeing an abandoned movie theatre, especially one that meant so much to me” shared Demarbre. “Then I thought: Wouldn’t it be fun to open up another Mayfair in Orleans?” After calling the landlord, Demarbre found out that the theatre had all its seats, screens, speakers, and projectors ripped out. “The place was demolished so I spent a year rebuilding it from scratch,” explained Demarbre.  Finally, last December, the Mayfair Orleans opened its doors.

Admission at the Mayfair Orleans is $9 for non-members, which is a dollar cheaper than the downtown location. Members of the Mayfair Theatre can see a movie for $5. An individual membership is priced at $10, while a family membership costs $20. The programming at the Orleans cinema is quite diverse. The cinema has done well with some international and independent films. The Mayfair Orleans also plays a second-run of Hollywood films. In the Orleans cinema, Demarbre explained that the movie choices are a bit on the safer side. The cinema is more family-oriented, so family films are always incorporated into the matinee week-end schedule. “The downtown location doesn’t usually draw the family crowds for matinees,” continued Demarbre. “Our programming downtown is a mixture of Bytowne-like movies and we attract a young, hip, cool, late-night university crowd.”

The downtown location hosts more social and corporate events, including weddings and private functions.

Because of its large space, Demarbre displays a lot of his various memorabilia, including Star Wars figurines, Hans Solo and Darth Vader cut-outs and a nine foot statue from the Alien movie. These items add life to the theatre and make the space fun. In addition to showing films, the Mayfair Orleans hosts birthday parties and also offers video gaming on the big screen. The downtown location hosts more social and corporate events, including weddings and private functions. In addition, some Writer’s fest events have been housed at the Mayfair.

Reaching Out for Support

On May 1st, a “Save the Mayfair Orleans” poster was put up in the building. Management decided to release the poster because business was slow. “April was a bad month in terms of attendance,” explained Demarbre. Since it was released, the poster was circulated widely through social media. The story was also featured in various media outlets.

Since it opened its doors in December, the Mayfair Orleans has sold 2,500 memberships. However, if the overall attendance does not increase, the theatre will not be able to remain open. According to Demarbre, there are still not enough people in Orleans who know about the new Mayfair theatre. Seeing as the building was closed for so long, most people in the area assume that it is still closed. “Since the poster came out, a lot of people from downtown have come to support us, but we need Orleans to support us,” added Demarbre. “The longer we stay open, the more the people in the community will know about us.”

If attendance does not increase, the Mayfair Orleans will be forced to shut its doors by the end of the month.

Management is optimistic and determined to stay open, despite its current situation. “We thought that we could either close our doors and then everyone would wake up one morning and find out we are closed forever,” says Demarbre, “or we could let them know leading up our closure, and maybe they can come support and help us keep the doors open for a little longer.”

If attendance does not increase, the Mayfair Orleans will be forced to shut its doors by the end of the month. “If everyone in Orleans knows we are here and they still don’t come, then I don’t mind closing,” shared Demarbre. “I hate the idea of closing and realizing that not enough people knew we were here.” Demarbre believes that if the Mayfair Orleans remains open for a full year, they will be better prepared to manage the theatre for years to come. “I would love to stay open long enough for everyone in Orleans to know that we are here.”

For more information, visit the Mayfair Orleans website.

New Burger Place Opens Downtown

April 18, 2012 6:39 pm
New Burger Place Opens Downtown

Watch out, Ottawa; there’s a new burger place in town. Burgers on Main is located on Sommerset between Bank and O’Connor. Also referred to as BOM, Burgers on Main first opened in Manotick in October 2011. Since then, the restaurant has been quite successful and is quickly becoming an important member of the community.

Because of its success, owner Jonathan Crow decided to open a second restaurant in downtown Ottawa when the location became available. According to Crow, this location was too good to pass up: “I saw the potential to bring a good burger place in downtown Ottawa,” says Crow. “The location seemed like a good fit.”

For Burgers on Main, it’s really important to use local ingredients. “The idea behind opening the first restaurant [in Manotick] was for the community to support itself,” says Crow. “By serving local beef, we support local suppliers.” In addition, Burgers on Main serves local beer on tap, including Beau’s from Vankleek Hill. Another favourite on tap is Sommerby’s, a drink only available in Ontario.

B.O.M. Ottawa

The menu is simple and straightforward, which is what Crow was aiming for. Both locations offer the same menu and every item is also available for take-out. In the downtown location, Burgers on Main offers a daily soup and sandwich combo for patrons. The restaurant will soon offer a pasta special; it is also considering the possibility of offering a monthly “feature” burger.

In addition to their signature burgers, here are a few highlights from the BOM menu:

– Flour dipped onion rings, crunchier and fluffier than those dipped in beer batter.

– Hot dogs, made with great Angus Beef.

– BOM’s poutine includes their own, homemade gravy.

– Rib drumettes, bigger and better than wings.

– Side dishes, including sweet potatoe fries, chili fries, bacon mac & cheese.

– Vegetarian options are available.

– There is a large selection of items on the kids’ menu.

– All items on the menu are geared for take-out.


One of the unique features of Burgers on Main is the retro-style popcorn machine. As soon as you sit down, you are offered some popcorn to munch on, while you browse your menu. Crow wanted to offer something other than bread  to the customers to snack on. ” Popcorn seemed like a great idea” he said. “The machine looks great and it makes great popcorn.” You can smell the popcorn before you even enter the restaurant.

The restaurant also features a classic Coca-Cola refrigerator with soda in glass bottles. However, they still serve fountain drinks as well for those who prefer it. In addition to its entrees, the menu also includes treats for everyone. Other than desserts, there are various types of floats and milk shakes. For an extra little kick, adults can order an x-rated shake, which contains two ounces of alcohol.

Although Burgers on Main is still in its early stage, there are big plans ahead.  Management would like to offer live music a few nights during the week and host an open mic night once a week. Other than their great menu, Burgers on Main offers a private dining room upstairs. This room is available for private parties for all occasions. With the nice, warm weather upon us, BOM’s large outdoor patio is a great spot to meet up with friends and enjoy a nice, cold drink.

Full burger menu

Burgers on Main believes in getting involved in the community. In Manotick, the restaurant supports local hockey and sports teams, donating both food and money for various community events. The downtown restaurant will be one of the participating restaurant in “A Taste for Life“. Taking place on April 25th, 25% of the sales of selected products will go to Bruce House and the Snowy Owl AIDS Foundation.

So how does the restaurant describe itself? “We are a burger place first and foremost but we are also a family-style restaurant,” says Crow. The restaurant caters to all crowds and all ages groups. There is a social and fun atmosphere and the staff is quite friendly.

If you find yourself in the neighbourhood and you’ve gathered quite an appetite, then challenge yourself and order a platter. Portions are quite large so brace yourself!

Burgers on Main is located at 343 Sommerset Street West.

Sleeping on the Streets: University Students “Homeless” for 5 Days

March 23, 2012 10:27 am
Sleeping on the Streets: University Students “Homeless” for 5 Days

Last week, students from Carleton University and the University of Ottawa hit the streets of Ottawa to raise awareness on homelessness in Canada. A national campaign, 5 Days for the Homeless invites university students to live “homeless” on their campus and raise money and awareness for a local charity of their choice.

The initiative was created in 2005 by students from the University of Alberta’s School of Business. This year, students from 24 universities across Canada participated in 5 Days for the Homeless. As part of the campaign, participants agreed to sleep outdoors for 5 days and 5 nights and panhandled to collect money for their chosen charity.

Both Carleton University and the University of Ottawa chose Operation Come Home as their charity for this year’s campaign. Operation Come Home (OCH) works with at-risk and homeless youth, in order to prevent them from becoming homeless adults. OCH offers many programs and services for homeless youth, in areas like education, outreach, housing and employment.

Shelter for Students at Carleton

“We were thrilled to be chosen as this year’s charity for the 5 Days for the Homeless campaign at both Carleton University and the University of Ottawa,” explained Jamie Hammond, Financial Literacy and Communications Officer at OCH. “It was our second year working with both schools; both teams have an honest respect and appreciation for the services that we offer at OCH.” This year, Carleton established a goal of raising $12,500 while the University of Ottawa’s goal was $10,000.

Students who participated in this initiative followed a specific set of rules during the 5 days. These rules included:

– Remaining on campus for the entire five days of the campaign.
– Participants were only allowed to eat food that was donated to them.
– Participants were not allowed to shower during the five days.
– Washrooms could only be accessed when campus buildings were open.
– Participants were not allowed to use their laptops and cell phones.

In addition to following these rules, students had to attend all their classes and complete all their assignments.

During the 5 days of the campaign, staff and youth from OCH visited the sites where the students were staying. “The participants were part of an important campaign, and we felt that by visiting them we were able to demonstrate our thanks and support,” said Hammond. Staff members at OCH brought snacks and coffee during different times of the day. Participants of OCH’s Health Matters program prepared supper to the students at both Carleton and University of Ottawa once during the week. “Volunteering to sleep outside for five days is a pretty big sacrifice, so we wanted to show them how much we appreciated what they were doing.”

Shelter for Students at U of O

In addition, participants received visits from several special guests during the five days. Justin Trudeau slept at the Carleton campus on the Monday night, while Olivia Chow visited participants at the University of Ottawa. Mathieu Fleury, City Counsellor in Ottawa, served coffee at the University of Ottawa Monday morning while the Dean of Carleton’s Sprott Business School slept outside on campus Tuesday night. Finally, on Friday, Elizabeth May, leader of the Green party, visited the participants at the University of Ottawa while Yasir Naqvi, MPP for Ottawa Centre, stopped by Carleton to speak with participants.

After the 5 days, the students of Carleton managed to raise $10,116.22. Meanwhile, the University of Ottawa came close to their goal with $8,801.83 raised. Both teams worked tirelessly and their hard work definitely paid off. So far, a grand total of $231,523 has been raised by universities across Canada who participated in the campaign.

“5 Days for the Homeless is important because it can bring homelessness “closer to home” for some people,” said Hammond. “By coming together on campus, the participants were able to spread awareness about youth homelessness in a big way and they have the opportunity to talk with their peers about a problem that currently exists in Ottawa.”

Want to help eliminate homelessness in Canada? It’s not too late to help! To make a donation or for more information, please visit the 5 Days for the Homeless website.

Toque Tuesday: Buy a Toque, Help a Youth

January 31, 2012 9:00 am
Toque Tuesday: Buy a Toque, Help a Youth

On Tuesday, February 7th, buy a toque and help homeless youth in Ottawa. Toque Tuesday is part of Raising the Roof’s National Toque Campaign. Raising the Roof is a national charity whose mission is to bring about long-term solutions to homelessness in Canada. The Youth Services Bureau of Ottawa’s Charitable Foundation, one of its many member agencies, is taking part in the 2012 National Toque Campaign.

For the last 50 years, the Youth Services Bureau (YSB) has been an important resource in Ottawa, providing many services to youth ages 12 and over. It has established itself as a trusted expert in several key areas, including homelessness, housing, mental health, youth justice, employment, health, diversity, and youth engagement. The organisation has 350 caring professionals working in over 20 sites across the Ottawa area. YSB provides crucial services to youth at various points in their lives: from living on the streets and needing a warm bed at night to helping them become healthy, happy young people. On average, between 2,500 and 3,000 youth take advantage of YSB services each month.

Proceeds from Toque Tuesday go directly towards supporting YSB's housing services.

For the past two years, the Youth Services Bureau Charitable Foundation has been involved in Toque Tuesday. Proceeds from Toque Tuesday go directly towards supporting YSB’s housing services, helping homeless youth in the Ottawa area.

“Homelessness is a real issue; there are an estimated 65,000 homeless young people in Canada,” says Janice Barresi, Executive Director of the YSB Charitable Foundation. “Toque Tuesday is a great opportunity to have a direct impact on these young people who are struggling and need our help.”

Last year, the YSB Charitable Foundation sold 3,100 toques. This year, their goal is to sell 4,000 toques. Toques are sold for $10, with $8 going directly to YSB’s housing program. Toques are on sale now and will be on sale until the stocks run out. The toques are very warm, which is perfect for the harsh Ottawa winters. They also make great gifts.

There are endless reasons to buy a toque!

Why buy a toque?

1 toque will provide one youth with 3 nutritious supper meals.

10 toques will provide a supper and groceries for 24 youth in a shelter for one day.

1 box of toques will help 16 youth purchase a monthly bus pass to go to school or work.

2 boxes of toques will sponsor one year’s worth of basic need supplies to a young person living in YSB’s emergency youth shelters, including daily meals, groceries, toiletries, and additional counselling support. 

So far, the Foundation has received positive responses to their campaign.  More volunteers are involved this year than ever before. Many workplaces are getting involved, including Bell and Intact Financial Corporation. Not only are they selling toques in their workplaces, they will be outside on February 7th selling them in the streets of Ottawa.

Raising the Roof is a national charity whose mission is to bring about long-term solutions to homelessness. ©Dwayne Brown Photography

Past campaign sales from Raising the Roof have collected $3.3 million in donations to 145 local community organizations in Canada that support homeless youth. The goal for the 2012 Raising the Roof campaign is 50,000 toques across Canada.

Here are your options to purchase a toque:

  • – Purchase online from the Raising the Roof website.
  • – Stop by the YSB office from 8:00am to 4:30pm, Monday to Friday at 2675 Queensview Dr. in Ottawa.
  • – Watch for volunteers at OC Transpo Hurdman Station, City Hall, Place Bell and Constitution Square Place Bell and Rideau Centre, who will be selling the toques from 7:30 – 9:00 am on February 7th.

So buy a toque, help homeless youth in Ottawa. Spread the word and wear your toque proudly!

Ottawa Food Bank Hits Record Numbers With Holiday Campaign

January 16, 2012 8:47 am
Ottawa Food Bank Hits Record Numbers With Holiday Campaign

Every year the Ottawa Food Bank provides assistance to families in need in our nation’s capital; this year was no exception.  During its 2011-2012 annual Holiday Food Drive, the Ottawa Food Bank collaborated with 430 local organizations to collect canned goods, 50 more than the 2010-2011 campaign. In addition, many organizations organized their own fundraising events and separate food drives to assist the Ottawa Food Bank in their efforts this season, including Hot 89.9 FM, OC Transpo and CTV Morning Live.

Holiday Food Drive's grand total for this year is 276,000 pounds of food and over $60,000 in donations.

The Ottawa Food Bank is proud to announce that the Holiday Food Drive’s grand total for this year is 276,000 pounds of food and over $60,000 in donations; this is an increase of 36,000 pounds of food collected last year. “Our warehouse team was astonished by the amount of food that was being brought into the warehouse throughout the campaign,” said Maggie Rose, Event Coordinator at the Ottawa Food Bank. We are so thankful to all the businesses and organizations that organized a food drive or held a fundraiser this Holiday season and helped us break a new Holiday Food Drive record.” When combining the amount of food collected and funds raised, the Holiday Food Drive is the Ottawa Food Bank’s biggest food drive of the year. Because of Ottawa’s commitment to help hungry members of its community, 45,000 individuals will benefit from the Ottawa Food Bank every month.

The Ottawa Food Bank not only depends on the donations of the community, they rely heavily on the work of volunteers, especially during their busy season. During the holidays, the Ottawa Food Bank welcomes around 40 volunteers a day, 5 days a week. “During the 2010/2011 fiscal year, our volunteers totalled nearly 24,700 hours of work,” said Rose. “This amount of hours equals to the number of hours of almost 13 full-time employees!” Although the Ottawa Food Bank has a staff of 20 employees, the volume of work is so heavy during the large food drives that it could not get done otherwise. Volunteers do everything from sorting food to helping at fundraising events.  The work of volunteers is crucial to the successful operation of the Holiday Food Drive. “The overwhelming number of food drive pick-ups would not be possible without the help of all these volunteers,” explained Rose.

There are many ways that you can help.

Year-round, the Ottawa Food Bank focuses on collecting and distributing food to its member agencies, who serve people in need in the Ottawa area. To collect the necessary food and funds to fulfill their mission, a number of events are organized every year, including the Holiday Food Drive, as well as Food Aid and Lunch Money Day.

Interested in helping the Ottawa Food Bank in 2012? There are many ways that you can help. Food can be donated in the red bins, found in local grocery stores.  You can organize your own food drive or fundraising event. The Ottawa Food Bank also accepts donations through their website and they are always looking for volunteers to help out in their warehouse and for special events. For more information, visit the Ottawa Food Bank’s website.

Wedding Show Woos Future Brides

January 9, 2012 10:32 am
Wedding Show Woos Future Brides

During the holidays, many lucky ladies got the surprise of a lifetime: a wedding proposal. Newly engaged women in Ottawa now begin the process of wedding planning. Luckily for them, the season of wedding shows has begun.

This past week-end, brides-to-be and their entourage gathered at Ottawa’s Convention Centre for the annual Wedding Palace Bridal Show, kicking off the 2012 wedding season. Over 200 exhibitors showcased their products and services at this event, including everything from florists to event planners, catering companies to photographers. Guests were treated with bridal fashion shows, held twice a day. The models wore wedding attire from various boutiques in the area, such as Alliance Bridal chez Ginette, White Satin Bridal Couture, Merry Marry and Moores Clothing for Men. All floral arrangements featured in the fashion shows were prepared by Beaudry’s Flowers & Silk Greenhouse.

Details at the show.

Lilac Lingerie, a lingerie boutique located in Westboro, was a first-time exhibitor at the Wedding Palace show. After participating in the Posh Wedding Show last winter, they jumped at this opportunity. “As a fairly new company, we hope to gain more exposure and develop relationships with potential clients,” said Emilia Kutrovska, owner of Lilac Lingerie.

Being an exhibitor allows new businesses like Lilac Lingerie to gain more exposure in Ottawa. “We feel that it was important to participate in this year’s Wedding Palace show because we have unique services and products to offer” explained Kutrovska. The boutique not only sells lingerie; they host bridal showers, offering a fun evening out for bridal parties. “We also recently launched boudoir photography services; something that would make a great wedding gift to a new husband!”

With Love Bridal Boutique is a modern bridal boutique located in Stittsville that sells both new and consignment bridal gowns and bridesmaid dresses. Since opening in September of 2010, they have been making their mark by participating in various wedding events. “The Wedding Palace Bridal Show is such a well planned and advertised show,” said Dana Salares, co-owner of With Love Bridal Boutique. “A show of this size is great exposure all around!”

Models at the bridal show.

With Love received great feedback after participating in this event last year. This year, they were hoping to meet even more brides. “Having a booth at the Bridal show allows us to demonstrate our style so brides can get an idea of what to expect when visiting our boutique,” explained Salares. “Not only is it a great way to be able to meet brides face to face, it also allows other vendors to see us as well.”

Planning a wedding can be a confusing and stressful process.  There are many important decisions need be made, regarding the venue, the dress, catering and everything else. This can get difficult, especially considering the variety of options available. Attending events like the Wedding Palace Bridal Show is a great way to make connections and get great ideas for your own special day.

Missed the Wedding Palace Bridal Show this week-end? Don’t despair! With the wedding season now begun, stay tuned for many other exciting events in the next few weeks, including the Ottawa Wedding Show (January 28 & 29th), Wed by Hand (February 11th) and the Ottawa Sun Wedding Decor & Linen Show (Feb 18th).

Supporting Our Youth

November 18, 2011 2:57 pm
Supporting Our Youth

Growing up is not easy. As adults, we sometimes forget how many challenges youth face on a daily basis.

Since the tragic suicide of 15 year old Jamie Hubley on October 14th, many questions have been raised. How could this have been prevented? Where could Jamie have turned to for help?

Where can youth go if they are dealing with depression, if they are experiencing suicidal thoughts? Where can kids go if they do not feel safe at home? How can they address homophobic bullying in their schools?

Luckily, Ottawa has many resources available for youth. Many organizations work with youth; here are just a few of them:

PTS-Pink Triangle Services

Pink Triangle Youth (Twitter: @PTSOttawa)

Pink Triangle Youth (PTY) is a drop-in youth group for people ages 12-24, organized through Ottawa’s Pink Triangle Services. It is a safe, sex positive space for queer youth. Every Wednesday, anywhere between 25 and 40 youth attend this drop-in group.

Merissa Taylor-Meissner is the Senior Coordinator of Pink Triangle Youth (PTY). She works with other volunteers to organize workshops and facilitate discussions among participants.

“The workshops are about issues that queer youth face today, such as coming out, bullying, mental health stigma, what kind of resources are available and how to reach out to friends who might be suffering”, explains Taylor-Meissner. “We also do fun ones, like feminism, kink 101, and sexual health. We make sure to cover a wide variety of topics.

Taylor-Meissner shares that, for many queer youth who come from a place where their sexual orientation or their gender identity isn’t accepted, PTY is the only place that they feel like they can be themselves. “”If you come from a place where you aren’t accepted, attending a group with people who have had similar experiences helps you feel like you can be yourself and creates a safe space,” says Taylor-Meissner.

Pink Triangle Services is a very small organization that offers many programs and services, not just for youth. They are always looking for donations or volunteers to assist in their programming efforts.

Pink Triangle Youth takes place every Wednesday, from 7pm to 9pm at 251 Bank Street.

Jer’s Vision

Jer’s Vision (Twitter: @jersvision)

Is there an issue with bullying at your local high school? If so, Jer’s Vision can help. Canada’s first national youth-run diversity organization, Jer’s Vision goes into schools in Ottawa and works with youth to address the culture of homophobic & transphobic bullying by engaging straight youth to become allies who understand the experiences of their LGBTQ peers and support them.

Volunteers from Jer’s Vision visit schools across Canada, in order to educate students and staff on how to prevent bullying in their schools through workshops, youth initiatives and conferences. They will work closely with teachers and with Gay-Straight Alliances or Rainbow Clubs in order to overcome discriminative behaviours. “The goal of Jer’s Vision is to prevent bullying before it becomes an issue,” says Executive Director Jeremy Dias. “We work with students and teachers and give the tools that they need to promote diversity in their schools.”

Jer’s Vision started as an organization running a single scholarship to recognize students who work to promote diversity in their schools and work to end bullying. In five years, the organization has grown to include activities in every province and territory.

“Our organization does one crucial thing: change the culture of the schools to make it safer and more respectful for all, including victims, bullies and bystanders” says Dias.  “Success will not come from one presentation, but from ongoing work with these schools and communities, and that includes everything from workshops, field trips, conferences, dialogues, art events, and so much more!”

In addition to their hands-on work in school, Jer’s Vision runs the International Day of Pink, a campaign against Bullying, Discrimination, Homophobia and Transphobia in schools and communities. “We invite everyone to celebrate diversity by wearing a pink shirt and by organizing activities in their workplaces, organizations, communities and schools on April 11, 2012,” says Dias.

Jer’s Vision is a volunteer based organization. They are always looking for people to help, donate and get involved. To invite Jer’s Vision to your school, community organization or business, check them out at

Jer’s Vision is located at 440 Albert Street.

Operation Come Home

Operation Come Home (Twitter: @OCHOttawa)

Operation Come Home (OCH) works with at-risk and homeless youth, in order to prevent them from becoming homeless adults. OCH offers many programs and services for homeless youth, in areas like education, outreach, housing and employment. “If we can give youth the resources they need now, they will not end up living in the streets and are less likely to become homeless adults,” says Jamie Hammond, OCH’s Communications Officer.

OCH operates a drop-in and resource centre for youth aged 16 to 25. The centre is open from Monday to Friday, 8am to 12pm.  This is the only morning drop-in centre for youth in Ottawa. Breakfast is prepared for them, and youth can access the clothing cupboard, with clothes, hygiene products and sleeping bags. They also have access to phones and computers if they need to check their emails or look for jobs. There are social support workers who work at the centre they might need.


OCH operates the Rogers Achievement Centre, which is the only on-site high school for at-risk youth in Ottawa. Youth aged 16 to 30 who have a couple of credits they need to complete or that are working on their GED, can register to attend this school. Students are able to work at their own pace and a teacher from the Ottawa Catholic School Board is available to help them every day. “Just because someone is not in school doesn’t mean that they don’t want to be there,” says Hammond. “Youth who don’t fit in the conventional learning environment or who get kicked out of their house might not be inclined to go back to school. Our Achievement Centre allows them to continue their education.”

OCH operates two social enterprises: BottleWorks and BeadWorks. BottleWorks is a successful bottle pick up service that employs 2-3 youth. The program works with many restaurants in downtown Ottawa. Youth will collect the bottles and keep the money received. Restaurants get a tax receipt for participating in this program. Also, BottleWorks has a new partnership with Beau’s Brewery for a residential delivery service, called BYBO (Buy Your Beau’s Online). Customers can order their Beau’s products online, and have them delivered by OCH’s BottleWorks service, starting November 25th. BeadWorks is a program where youth come into the studio and make jewelry. All the materials 1are provided and the jewelry is sold, with 75% of the profits go to the youth and 25% going back to the program. OCH now has a store front and is currently trying to draw in more people into the studio.

OCH also operates the Job Action Centre, where they offer a pre-employment program for a 12 week period, for youth aged 16 to 30. From Monday to Friday, 8 or 9 youth work on resume building, interview techniques, cover letter writing. They get certified in WHMIS, Smart Serve, First Aid and CPR, Conflict Resolution. They get paid to minimum wage. “By the end of the program, the goal is for them to either go back to school or to get a job,” says Hammond. “We work with youth to overcome barriers that might prevent them for getting a job.”

OCH offers many other programs, such as a healthy lifestyle program and a housing assistance program. Up to 250 youth take advantage of OCH’s programs every month. “Since we moved locations from Murray Street to Gloucester Street, our intake of youth has double or tripled,” says Hammond.

OCH is always accepting for donations for their drop-in centre, such as milk and coffee, canned goods, and clothing. In the wintertime, they are always short on coats or long sleeved shirts for men and women. Any donation is appreciated.

If you know a teen in need ~ reach out and help!

Operation Come Home is located at 150 Gloucester Street.

If you know a youth in need, reach out and look within our community. There are many organizations in the Ottawa area who work tirelessly to support youth.

Interested in supporting the work of these amazing organizations? Get involved! These organizations rely heavily on volunteers. Cannot give your time to these organizations? Feel free to make a donation. Every bit helps.

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